Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI) is adding a new airline to its arrivals board. Air Senegal touched down on Thursday morning, operating the first of its new twice-weekly flights from Dakar via New York JFK.
Twice weekly Air Senegal flights into BWI
With its eye-catching tail, 9H-SZN, an Air Senegal Airbus A330-900neo, landed just at BWI before lunchtime on Thursday. “Nothing but blue sky today as we welcome our newest airline,” posted the BWI team online.
Senegal’s national carrier is already flying the A330neo twice a week to JFK. The 183 mile (295 kilometer) hop down to BWI is a tag flight. These flights hope to tap into the large West African diaspora residing in the Greater Washington/Baltimore region.
Pushing back from Dakar’s Blaise Diagne International Airport (DSS) at 01:30 on Thursdays and Sundays, the A330neo operating as HC407 takes about eight hours to cross the Atlantic. The plane lands at JFK at 0:600 on the same day. BWI-bound passengers will clear US customs at JFK.
After a two-and-a-half layover, the aircraft continues on BWI, landing there at 10:00. Thursday’s flight landed over one hour late but still received a very warm welcome.
“The addition of Air Senegal to the BWI Marshall family is a win for the region and a win for the traveling public,” Maryland Department of Transportation Secretary Greg Slater said in a statement.
— BWI Marshall Airport (@BWI_Airport) September 2, 2021
Air Senegal takes on Delta Air Lines
After spending most of the day on the ground at BWI, the A330neo departs at 20:25 on Thursday and Sunday evening, operating as HC408. The plane heads back to JFK, touching down there at 21:55. After two hours on the ground, HC408 departs JFK at 23:55 and heads back to Dakar, landing at 12:25 the following day.
“The airline hopes to facilitate the growth of inbound business, trade, and tourism from USA to Senegal,” Air Senegal says in a statement.
Air Senegal’s US flights use leased Hi Fly Malta aircraft. The A330neos feature 32 Stelia Aerospace Opal business class seats, 21 premium economy seats, and 237 economy class seats. The A330neos can also uplift up to 12 tons of cargo per flight, with Air Senegal is keen to build up its cargo business out of the United States.
Air Senegal will take on Delta Air Lines and their five times a week Boeing 767-300ER between JFK and Dakar, though the airline is planning on switching to an Airbus A330 for the winter. Over the upcoming winter, the two airlines will have the nonstop US-Senegal market to themselves.
High hopes for Air Senegal’s BWI flights
Air Senegal’s BWI flights are a trial. The airline is only locked in to operate them until the end of March. But Air Senegal is confident the flights will work. Aside from the large West African catchment population, BWI is a hub for Southwest Airlines and offers easy access to Baltimore and DC.
“Air Senegal will offer easy access and efficient service to West Africa for many travelers throughout our National Capital region,” said BWI’s Executive Director, Ricky Smith.
There are plenty of connections out of BWI for travel throughout the US. At the other end, Dakar is also one of West Africa’s most important transit airports. The current schedule allows good two-way connectivity via Dakar to Abidjan (ABJ), Bamako (BKO), Conakry (CKY), Banjul (BJL), Ziguinchor (ZIG), Nouakchott (NKC), and Freetown (FNA).
In 2019, two-way passenger traffic between the US and Senegal totaled approximately 86,000. That number dropped last year owing to travel restrictions and a decline in demand for long-haul travel. Air Senegal will be keen to ride the rebound.