I was in Toulouse in 2000 for the first Airbus A330 to Africa. Air Afrique was taking delivery of this beautiful airplane. At the press conference I asked a wrong question.
I asked why Airbus has failed in Africa. The PR people switched the event into a French only conference putting me on a cooler. I was the only one who didn’t speak French. They told me someone was coming to answer my questions.
When it was time to fly the plane from Toulouse, France to Dakar, Senegal, I was upgraded to Business Class to sit next to the VP Sales in Charge of Africa. He asked about my question during the press conference. I told him Airbus failed in Nigeria with Nigerian Airways, failed in Kenya Airways, failed in Angola, TAAG, failed in Ethiopian Airlines and failing in Air Afrique.
He asked for evidence and I provided evidence of planes parked at airports all over Africa. He told me I was a specialist but that I ignored the fact that Airbus is more technologically advanced than Boeing which is popular in Africa.
He talked about fly by wire and other advantages of Airbus over Boeing which has not been appreciated by Africans.
Since the 1990s Boeing has been the preferred equipment for Nigerian and African Carriers. It has been the B727 and later B737. Then B787 became the most profitable equipment in Africa, if one believes Ethiopian Airlines and Kenya Airways.
Suddenly almost every Nigerian Airline leased Airbus for their ramped up operations over the yuletide period. Boeing Aircraft almost disappeared overnight from the Airspace.
Air Peace, a solid Boeing customer with B737 and B777 suddenly leased an Airbus to add to its growing Embraer Fleet. Arik Airline formerly the biggest Boeing Airline in West Africa also leased an Airbus, Aero leased an Airbus and it is said that United Nigeria also took one.
In 2016 AWA effectively eliminated Nigerian Carriers from Ghana using an Embraer 145. All the Nigerian Carriers except Dana had used the B737 for its Ghana operations, sometimes using the Dash 8.
After the success of AWA all the Nigerian Carriers took smaller planes. Air Peace started an E145 fleet called the City Hoppers which has been successful. Air Peace added the Brand new Embraer E195 E2.
Slim, Fit and Trim has won the Air battle over Ghana.
Then enter IbomAir with the CRJ900. IbomAir with one of the best management teams in Nigeria cruised to the top of the market with these aircraft. Their success demanded a bigger plane to mop up passengers on routes that needed seats.
They have become the Airline of Choice on the profitable Lagos-Abuja Route. They have become dominant almost a monopoly on the Uyo-Lagos route. Port Harcourt and Enugu is within their Control.
She launched the A220-300 Airplane starting the Airbus craze in Nigeria.
Before IbomAir only Bellview and Arik ran an Airbus Fleet. It is believed that the Arik A340 deal was the nail that finished Arik. Virgin Nigeria attempted the Airbus and jettisoned it.
Nigerian Airways had an Airbus which they used for long haul operation. First Nations in its patchy operation used the Airbus. Airbus has not had a good run in Nigeria.
IbomAir has been known for its ontime performance. It has the least number of cancelled flights until it brought the A220. Since then its schedule integrity has become jerky endangering its rosy record.
The new planes have not been a completely pleasant ride for them even if they deny it. There has been many aircraft on ground issues with the 2 Aircraft. Their record of ontime performance is now in peril. A Commissioner with FCPCC, Sola Salako in a Facebook post blamed the New Aircraft for the delays being experienced by the airline.
Before now it is believed that any Nigerian Airline with 8 aircraft starts having issues of delays and cancellations. It is also believed that any Nigerian Airline with 10 aircraft do not last 10 Years. They always run into problems on the 10th Year or at the 8th Aircraft. Only Dana and Overland have defied this 10 year myth.
So the arrival of the 7th aircraft for IbomAir and the new delays have not gone unnoticed by observers.
Meanwhile IbomAir has ordered 10 more of the A220. They announced the order at the Dubai Airshow in November 2021.They are joining 3 other African Airlines recognised as major partners of the New Aircraft.
According to Airinsight magazine “The Airbus A220 is now flying with four airlines in Africa: Air Tanzania, EgyptAir, Ibom Air, and Air Senegal. Nigeria’s Ibom Air has been wet-leasing the type from EgyptAir but announced a purchase agreement order for ten aircraft”
The A220 is today one of the most sought after aircraft in the World. In the absence of the B737 Max 8 it is the number one plane in that category.
Nigeria has had a biannual cycle of boom and bust for local airlines. Suddenly a lot of airlines jump into the business and within 3 years most fall out. Nigeria has been a burial ground of over 40 airlines in the last 30 Years. Last year 2021 was a year in which new airlines, Green Africa and United Nigeria were added to the market.
The Director General of Nigerian Civil Aviation Agency NCAA Capt. Nuhu Musa recently said that 15 more airlines are waiting for approval to start business. It is expected that most of the airlines will be coming with ATRs, CRJs, E145 and other midrange aircraft.
No one knows how long the Airbus rush in Nigeria will last. No one can explain why the sudden love for Airbus in Nigeria. Speculations about the ease of acquisition cannot be justified because there are planes of all types available for lease all over the World.
By Ikechi Uko