Is Cabo Verde Airlines On The Verge Of Renationalization?

In the latest turn of events surrounding the fate of Cabo Verde Airlines (CVA), the government of the island nation has announced plans to reclaim ownership of its flag carrier. Citing concerns for the airline’s future, Prime Minister Ulisses Correia e Silva said Monday that a process had been initiated to retake control of CVA from the Icelandair Group, to whom the government sold a majority stake in 2019.

Cabo Verde Airlines 757
The government of Cape Verde intends to retake control of its national airline after selling a majority stake in 2019. Photo: Getty Images

Concerns over the airline’s future

According to Barrons, the government said the new owners had ‘not demonstrated the ability to guarantee the sustainability and continuity of the company’s operations’. This is a rather quick change of heart from the Cape Verde authorities, as just this April, it was confirmed that the government intended to sell its remaining 39% of CVA, fully privatizing the airline.

Cabo Verde Airlines has not flown any revenue service since March 2020 due to travel restrictions associated with the COVID-19 crisis. The carrier had scheduled to resume operations on June 18th with a flight to Lisbon, Portugal. However, it seems the service was canceled, which may have prompted the government’s turnaround.

“We are excited that we can finally resuscitate the airline from the ashes of the pandemic. (…) This is just the beginning, and we are looking forward to creating a better future,” Erlendur Svavarsson, CEO of Cabo Verde Airlines, said when announcing the intended flight resumption. 

Cabo Verde 757
The small island nation flag carrier has a fleet of three Boeing 757-200 aircraft. Photo: Anna Zvereva via Wikimedia Commons

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Who is Loftleiðir?

The Cape Verde government sold a 51% stake in CVA to Loftleiðir, also known as Icelandic Airlines. The company was first formed in 1944 by three Icelandic pilots. The airline merged with Flugfélag in 1973 to form Icelandair and ceased scheduled operations as Loftleiðir in 1979.

However, since 2003, Loftleiðir operates as the Icelandair Group’s wet lease and charter branch. Loftleiðir Cabo Verde specifically is a 70/30 joint venture between Loftleiðir Icelandic and other Icelandic investors.

Loftleiðir Icelandic 757
Loftleiðir Icelandic is the wet lease and charter branch of Icelandair and owns 51% of CVA along with other Icelandic investors. Photo: Pedro Aragão via Wikimedia Commons

Millions in state-support

The Cape Verde government still owns 39% of Cabo Verde Airlines, and the ca. 300 employees own 10%. The airline has received US$24.4 million in state-guaranteed loans since November last year. It currently has a fleet of three Boeing 757-200s, aged on average just over 26 years old.

Cabo Verde Airlines was established in 1958 and was designated as flag carrier when the island nation gained independence from Portugal in 1975. It was later nationalized in 1983.

Before the crisis, CVA served 14 destinations in nine countries from its hub at Amílcar Cabral International Airport on Sal Island. Beyond domestic services to other islands, CVA flies to Angola, Brazil, France, Italy, Nigeria, Portugal, Senegal, and the United States.

What do you make of the future of Cabo Verde Airlines? Will the government retake control, and is this the best possible solution? Leave a comment below and let us know your thoughts.