Cameroon’s Camair-Co (QC, Douala) has drawn up a list of 130 workers who it plans to dismiss, representing nearly a third of the 371 employees sent home on technical leave since June 2020.

This is according to a letter by Director-General Louis Georges Njipendi Kuotu to staff representatives on December 18, citing economic reasons for the redundancies. The retrenchments formed part of the airline’s restructuring plan, which called for the rationalisation of the workforce and the reduction of the wage bill.

Other restructuring measures include the ongoing rehabilitation and strengthening of its fleet; and the resumption of operations on October 18, 2020, with a single wet-leased B737-300 for a period of three months following eight months of suspended services because of COVID-19 restrictions. B737-300 UR-CQW (msn 29130), wet-leased from Jonika Airlines (JO, Kyiv Igor Sikorsky), has been plying domestic routes between Douala, Garoua, Yaoundé Nsimalen, and Maroua. It was to be returned to its Ukrainian owner at the end of December.

As previously reported, one of Camair-Co's two MA-60s, TJ-QDA (msn 903), re-entered service on domestic routes on December 6 after having received its airworthiness recertification from the Cameroonian civil aviation authority (Autorité aéronautique du Cameroun - AAC) on December 2. Camair-Co’s two B737-700s – TJ-QCA (msn 34480) and TJ-QCB (msn 33920) - were to undergo maintenance soon and the acquisition of DHC-8-Q400s were in the pipeline, according to Kuotu.

In July 2020, the government announced a XAF15 billion CFA franc (USD28 million) state aid package intended for a fleet revamp. This would have paid for the maintenance of one of the airline’s B737-700s; the acquisition of the two DHC-8-Q400s; and the rental of two engines likely to allow the return to flight of the second B737-700, according to local media reports.

Since its launch in 2011, Camair-Co never really managed to take off in terms of both management and operation. Overwhelmed by financial difficulties, the company has had six general managers in the space of nine years; and accumulated losses each year – with more than XAF100 billion (USD187 million) losses recorded in the first quarter of 2020.

In its latest report dated October 22, 2020, on Cameroon’s public debt, the Autonomous Amortisation Fund of Cameroon (La Caisse Autonome d’Amortissement - CAA) – which manages public loan funds - stated that Camair-Co had accumulated debt of XAF124 billion (USD231 million) as of September 30, 2020. It said Camair-Co, together with the national oil refinery Sonara, were the two most indebted public companies in Cameroon. Sonara’s debt stood at XAF704.1 billion (USD316 million) on September 30, 2020.