Home » Africa: Interlining with International airlines could sustain and drive profitability for domestic carriers in Nigeria’s aviation sector

Africa: Interlining with International airlines could sustain and drive profitability for domestic carriers in Nigeria’s aviation sector

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Many industry stakeholders, including airline operators have over the years lamented how Nigerian carriers have failed in international flight operations.

According to industry observers, without effective interline arrangement with other international carriers that can take their passengers farther, Nigerian airlines would not only continue to perform poorly on international routes, also they would barely make profits on such ventures.

In fact, THISDAY learnt that the airlines that have operated international destinations in Nigeria recorded losses, which were moderated by revenues they were making on domestic services.

That is why there have been advice that Nigerian airlines should develop local destinations and make them profitable. This is because with over 200 million population and road transport threatened by insecurity, air transport holds great optimism for Nigerian carriers.

READ: Africa: Interlining will grow Nigerian Domestic Aviation and save the Airlines from Frequent collapse

Travel expert and organiser of Akwaaba African Travel Market, Ikechi Uko told THISDAY that with effective collaboration through interline and codeshare Nigerian airlines can operate profitable international service.

He said one airline cannot do it alone, which is why they need to work together and take advantage of the market in West, Central Africa and more distant destinations.

He said dollar access and exchange rate also play significant role in international flight service.

The travel expert said for airlines in the country to succeed, Nigeria has to build a hub in one or two of the major airports with transit logistics so that passengers from other countries in West and Central Africa can transit from Lagos or Abuja.

“We have to build hub and feed the hub from other countries around Nigeria. That is what Ghana is doing with fifth freedom, bringing passengers from different parts of West and Central Africa and connecting them to other international destinations.

“Interline is the best option for everybody. In that way you work with other airlines and bring passengers to the hub and take them from there to other destinations. For example, if Air Peace will fly global, other airlines have to feed it with passengers.

READ: Africa: Interlining, Way Out For Indigenous Airlines – Air Peace CEO

“But no one airline will have the capacity to run it alone but working together they can make efficient and profitable international flight operation. Another example is what Asky is doing with Ethiopia Airlines. Asky brings in passengers in time for Ethiopian to take them to the United States. Asky fully utilises its aircraft operating in the West and Central Africa.

“The airline has eight aircraft and operates to 23 destinations. The defunct Virgin Nigeria Airways was feeding passengers to Virgin Atlantic and British Airways from the West Coast. They would bring passengers in the morning that would follow Virgin Atlantic and others will follow BA to London in the night,” he said.

He said that countries in Central Africa (SEMAC) nations are 25, while ECOWAS countries are 15, with Lagos and Abuja at the centre of these countries as well as with three hours equidistance to all the other nations, adding that these countries can be serviced from Lagos and Abuja.

An official of one of the international carriers in Nigeria told THISDAY that flying point to point for airlines is unprofitable, adding that it is what Nigerian carriers do, “because they don’t have interline with other major carriers and for them to succeed they would have to also be members of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), which will provide them clearing house because they would have deposits with the global body.”

“Most Nigerian airlines lose money on international operations because they charge cheap fares and their business class is most often empty and they operate point to point. Airlines like Emirates may have 200 passengers, only about 80 will drop in Dubai but the others will connect flight to other destinations.

“Also for Nigerian airlines to succeed, Nigeria should have developed airport with good transit facilities where passengers can stay overnight and connect their flight the following day. You cannot successfully operate international flights when your passengers don’t even have a place they can brush their teeth,” he said.

He also said it costs so much to operate international destinations that Nigerian airline that operates to Ghana, for example, would pay high landing charges, calculated by the weight of the aircraft and $80 service charge per passenger, noting that without making profits international flight service is a waste of funds for Nigerian carriers.

By Chinedu Eze

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