KINSHASA, Sept 4 (Reuters) - One of several small domestic airlines in Democratic Republic of Congo shut down its operations on Friday, blaming poor operating conditions and the government’s decision to create its own airline.
Korongo Airlines, owned by Brussels Airlines and the Belgium-based Forrest Group, said it has struggled to make money and a decision had been taken to dissolve the company. It began flying in 2012 but has only one aircraft, a Boeing 737 which was damaged two weeks ago due to a maintenance problem on the runway in the central city of Mbuji Mayi, it said in a statement.
Air travel in Congo is dogged by lax safety standards, high ticket prices and poor service. All internal carriers are banned from operating inside the European Union for safety reasons.
Earlier this year, Congo’s government announced the creation of a new national carrier, Congo Airways, meant to replace one that went bankrupt in 2003.
But Congo Airways’ launch, initially expected in June, is in doubt after an Irish court last month ordered one of its two planes to stay grounded in Dublin, where it was being painted, after two Americans sought its seizure on the grounds that Congo’s government owed them $11.5 million.
The government said it hopes to resolve the dispute amicably.
Korongo said the decision to create a new airline had deterred potential investors from upgrading its fleet.
Brussels Airlines will continue its daily flights between Brussels and the Congo capital, Kinshasa, and is open to providing technical assistance to Congo Airways, the statement added. (Reporting by Aaron Ross; Editing by Ruth Pitchford)