Whoa: Equatorial Guinea’s Airline Has A First Class Product?

At this point I’ve reviewed almost every international first class product in the world. While I’ll never be able to review every single business class product, not that many airlines have first class, and I’m almost there. At the moment I’m down to the following airlines in first class (or so I thought):

  • Cathay Dragon (I’ve flown Cathay Pacific first class, though technically haven’t flown Cathay Dragon; this should be easy enough to do using British Airways Avios between Hong Kong and Shanghai, for example)
  • China Eastern (I can book this using Chase Ultimate Rewards points that I transfer to Korean Air SkyPass)
  • EL AL (they have some fairly decent paid first class fares, which in many cases are a better deal than paying their inflated award costs)
  • Kuwait Airways (they have decent paid first class fares, and I was considering trying this shortly)
  • Oman Air (as much as I love Oman Air, I have low expectations of their first class, though it’s inexpensive enough when originating in Cairo)
  • TAAG Angola (this is probably the most expensive, as they don’t have frequent flyer partners, and it looks like a first class ticket from Johannesburg to Lisbon via Luanda runs around $3,000 one-way)

So I had hopes of flying all these products in the coming months, though in the comments section Francesco notes that I’m actually missing an airline from my list. It’s an airline I knew almost nothing about. Ceiba Intercontinental is based in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, and they have one 777-200LR in their fleet. Well, more accurately they’re leasing a 777 long term from White Airways, which is a Portuguese charter airline.

The 777’s registration is CS-TQX, and based on tracking that, it looks like the plane operates the ~2,700 mile flight between Malabo and Madrid a couple of times a week. I’ve also been interested in Equatorial Guinea for a while. They have some unusual visa requirements — everyone needs a visa to visit the country, except those from Barbados, China, and the United States (that’s an interesting combination).

Apparently the 777 features a total of 250 seats, including 200 economy seats, 28 business class seats, and 22 first class seats. White Airways’ website has pictures of the business class and economy cabin.

However, oddly there are no pictures of the first class product.

Wikipedia has the following to say about the airline:

The airline was on the list of air carriers banned in the European Union but it currently has scheduled direct flights from Malabo to Madrid.

Um, can anyone make sense of that statement?

The “accidents and incidents” report section isn’t terribly inspiring either:

On 5 September 2015, a Boeing 737 flying Flight C2-71 (Dakar – Cotonou) collided with a HS-125 air ambulance flying from OuagadougouBurkina Faso to DakarSenegal. The Boeing 737 diverted to Malabo where it landed safely. The air ambulance apparently suffered a decompression incident and is believed to have crashed in the Atlantic Ocean.

“Believed to have crashed in the Atlantic Ocean?”

Okay, but here’s the real issue. As far as I can tell Ceiba doesn’t have a website, and I can’t see anywhere that you can book a flight on them. They don’t show up on OTAs, I don’t see their flights on ExpertFlyer or ITA Matrix, etc. So what am I missing? How do you actually book a ticket on Ceiba? I assume I’m missing something obvious here.

On one hand I guess I need to add them to my list. On the other hand, I’m not sure I’d look at this as a “traditional” first class product, which is to say that they’re leasing a plane that just happens to have a first class cabin. It almost sounds to me like my recent flight on Azores Airlines, where they were leasing an A340 that just happened to have a first class cabin.

Has anyone flown Ceiba or visited Equatorial Guinea? How do you actually book a ticket on the airline?

Comments

  1. @ Leo — Are you actually able to pull up any dates with availability on that website? Even when searching the route I can’t get Ceiba to come up.

  2. Spent some time there in 2014 working in the oil patch. Malabo is on a scenic volcanic island in the Atlantic. Mt. St. Isabel is on the island of Bioko, there are views of Mount Cameroon when the clouds lift. Interesting way to check out colonial west Africa (Spanish) without needing a visa. Nice Hilton and Sofitel properties on the island. The Sofitel had a golf course, which was in OK shape in 2014.

    Another interesting story involving flights departing SSG was when the AF SSG-DLA-CDG flight flirted with Mount Cameroon in 2015. Thankfully this story didn’t turn into an actual incident.

    http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-32890312

  3. Dragonair First class is really just CX Business class (the longhaul product). Can’t say you’re missing much.

  4. So, the 777 appears to have been delivered new to Ceiba back in 2011, so it’s not at all like your recent Azores flight on an ex-Emirates 340.

    Also, their sole 777 (40668) shows as being in São Paulo as of this morning, while the MAD-SSG flights are being operated by 737-800 aircraft.

  5. “The airline was on the list of air carriers banned in the European Union but it currently has scheduled direct flights from Malabo to Madrid.”

    They are not allowed to fly with their own planes, but are allowed to use leased planes to fly to europe.

  6. Believe me , EG is not a place you’d want to visit – it is seriosuly the a*s end of the World, visiting numerous times having worked in the Oil and Gas game and couldn’t wait to get home quick enough after every swing

  7. And clarification on the Wikipedia quote:

    “Despite appearing on the EU Air Safety List, CEIBA has managed to operate a 4x weekly Malabo – Madrid Barajas service by re-registering its B777-200(LR) under Portuguese charter operator White (WI, Lisbon). In response to the Spanish decision, CEIBA has avoided deploying its B777 on the Madrid route, using smaller aircraft or leasing other planes from White and from Privilege Style (P6, Palma Son Sant Joan).”

    https://www.ch-aviation.com/portal/news/53176-spanish-courts-approve-seizure-of-ceiba-777-over-debt-saga

  8. I haven’t used it but people I know say ruta47.com is a good contact for booking flights there.

  9. Lucky, strike El Al’s First Class from your list. With a 2-2-2 configuration, it’s not as comfortable as business class on many other airlines.

    Instead please do a report on their new 787 business class:1-2-1!

  10. The EU ban it seems, they get around, because the plane might be leased AND operated by another carrier.

  11. I am not sure, but if you want to fly Dragonair First Class, you must go to Beijing, as I do not think they fly first class to Shanghai.

  12. Talk about an airline I would pay money for NOT to fly. I think you should think about the safety standard of some airlines.
    Not all pilots, mechanics and ethics are of the same around to the world. When it comes to EG – I am pretty sure they are at the bottom of the barrel in all those aspects.

  13. @Leo – Thank you for recommending our website – http://www.alternativeairlines.com
    @Lucky – We set the Ceiba International page up as we know there are many travelers looking to fly this route and we specialise in ticketing for lesser-known carriers and internal flights within many countries.
    Depending from where you are beginning your trip, other airlines that we can ticket to Equatorial Guinea include; Asky Airlines, China Eastern, Cathay Dragon, TAAG Angola, Ethiopian Airlines, EL AL, Kuwait Airways and more. It appears that Ceiba International are flying domestically (between the Malabo and Bata).

    – Hope this helps! Happy to discuss anything else

  14. Someone already commented, Ceiba indeed wet-leases the plane from White Aviation, therefore they can operate the flight to Europe.
    Ceiba only deals via their own office in Malabo or Bata pr via local travel agents you can book tickets.
    The incident described in your story, this was indeed horrifying, but believe the air ambulance was later found(crashed into the ocean)

    As the 777 is on a wet-lease, it is pretty save to fly, at least more reliable then Ceiba’s own 737’s.

  15. Lucky,

    I have seen this plane countless times in Sao Paulo GRU – as someone posted here.

    From what I have been told, it comes here to pick up people that work in the oil industry between the two countries – apparently there is a good Brazilian investment over there.

    I am not sure if you can just buy a ticket as a random passanger.

    Maybe you can base in GRU and review GRU-LAD with TAAG and SSG-GRU with Ceiba? Couple that with Azul MCO/FLL-VCP in Business!

  16. I’m pretty sure I saw this plane at HAV on 24 July. No clue if that’s a regular route, but I watched it take off and looked the airline up later. It was supposedly flying nonstop to SSG.

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