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Cape Verdean government grants domestic flight operation concession to BestFly Angola

The Government of Cape Verde announced today that it has granted a six-month concession, starting May 17, to BestFly Angola to operate the inter-island scheduled air transport service.

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In a statement sent to Lusa, the government explains that this concession "follows the manifest decision" of Transportes Interilhas de Cabo Verde (TICV, of Spanish group Binter), "to cease its operations, from May 17", being that "the only air operator that ensures domestic flights and in view of the pressing need to ensure internal flights and thus the constitutional right to mobility of Cape Verdeans".

As Lusa reported, flights between islands in Cape Verde risk being suspended within three days, with TICV, the only company that ensures connections, continuing not to make available tickets to any destination from Monday, a subject that was discussed this Friday between the Prime Minister, Ulisses Correia e Silva, and the President of the Republic, Jorge Carlos Fonseca.

According to a consultation made by Lusa, TICV maintains the supply of flights only until Sunday, May 16, and all connections and dates after that remain unavailable, as for several weeks, making it impossible to buy tickets through the company's website or by travel agencies.

Lusa previously contacted the management of TICV, but did not obtain any explanation for this scenario, which follows the unavailability of tickets in March for flights in April, and then in May, in this case only until May 16. However, the situation has never involved such a short deadline, which according to industry sources risks making flights unviable as early as Monday, because there are no tickets on sale.

In the statement released this Friday, the government recognizes that the covid-19 pandemic "had a devastating effect on the civil aviation sector" and TICV "was no exception," with a reduction in passengers carried, "negatively impacting its sales and results obtained, a situation that continues to prevail in the present year 2021."

"The company's shareholders made this situation known to the Government, back in 2020, and promptly the Government presented some aid modalities in the framework of the instruments defined to support the civil aviation industry, in order to overcome this situation. During talks on the model of support that could be negotiated, the shareholders also expressed their disinterest in the business in Cabo Verde and the consequent desire to stop operations and liquidate the company, unless there was no interested buyer," the statement said.

It adds that the decision announced comes after market consultation and that BestFly Angola, a company under Angolan law, an operator "established in the aviation market since 2009," has "experience in aircraft management and aircraft handling".

He also recalls that the government held negotiations to "find a solution that would allow the operation of TICV not to be discontinued" and "consequently ensure the air mobility of people and cargo between the islands," taking into account that it is the "only operator operating in the domestic passenger transport market".

"The maintenance of jobs was also a concern, especially due to the pandemic crisis the country is going through. Unfortunately, after several negotiation sessions it was not possible to reach an agreement between the parties on the format and nature of state support for TICV and other commitments. As a result, the shareholders have informed the government that they will cease flights as of May 17," reads the statement.

The government explains that "given this situation and the need to ensure mobility" between the islands, "it was obliged to seek an emergency solution which resulted in an invitation to BestFly Angola to submit a proposal," which "resulted in the planned signing of a concession contract for the operation of a public interest service for regular domestic air transport of passengers, cargo and mail, including public service obligations, as provided for in Cape Verde's Aeronautical Code".

The statement said the temporary operation concession contract "defines the obligations and rights of the grantor, the State, and the concessionaire, BestFly Angola," and "guarantees the minimum principles that guide the mobility policy," including consumer protection and tariff delimitation and discipline.

The guarantee of universality, regularity, continuity, punctuality and quality of public service, the promotion of mobility, the unification of the market, the guarantee of security as well as the coverage of all the islands in terms of air transport service are also foreseen issues.

"With this contract, we wanted to prevent any shock that could emerge from the withdrawal of the current and only air operator in the market, jeopardizing the air connection between the islands. The contract will last for six months, enough time for sufficient conditions to be created to set up structural and viable solutions that guarantee the public service provision of domestic scheduled transport by one or more air transport operators," reads the statement.

It also said that Bestfly Angola has already set up a company under Cape Verdean law, called Bestfly Cabo Verde, "which should rely on national labour for its operations.

"Regarding the maintenance of jobs at the TICV company, the government is monitoring the process, seeking to do everything possible to keep them or seek their reassignment," the statement concluded.