Air Peace, Ibom Air and Overland Airways are among the carriers to welcome new planes in the coming months as Nigerian airlines are expecting up to 40 new aircraft in the next 36 months.
According to Thisday, Nigerian airlines have recorded steady progress in aircraft acquisition since Arik Air broke a 20-year old jinx by acquiring brand new aircraft in 2007.
Air Peace is expected to receive 10 Embraer E195-E2 aircraft this year, followed by Ibom Air, which is expected to receive 10 brand new aircraft from Airbus, starting from this year. It was gathered that Overland Airways also made firm order for 7 Embraer 175 aircraft. Air Peace had made order for 10 Boeing B737 Max in 2018 and reconfirmed the order in 2021.
Sources told THISDAY that the aircrafts will arrive the country within the 36 months period. Air Peace official told THISDAY that the company would focus on receiving the 10 brand new Embraer aircraft this year and would then look forward to receiving the Boeing 737 MAX, which would come in MAX 8 and 10 variants. Informed source from the company told THISDAY that the MAX 10 equipment are primed for the Lagos-London route whenever the airline receives approval to operate the route.
The Group Manager, Marketing and Communication, Ibom Air, Annie Essienette, told THISDAY that the Akwa Ibom State owned airline ordered for 10 Airbus aircraft, which was expected to begin to arrive early this year but due to the delay in manufacturing the aircraft, it is expected to begin to arrive later this year. “We are sure of one this year, two next year but we will have all delivered between this year and 2025. We have staggered delivery of the aircraft. We are also expecting variant in the aircraft types that will be delivered to us,” she said.
The airline, he added, will have a big boost in its fleet when it receives all the aircraft, “It will make us the second biggest operator in the country.” Currently the airline operates five Bombardier CRJ-900 and two Airbus A220 aircraft. THISDAY learnt that the acquisition of these aircraft will cost the airlines humongous amount of money and the facility is being provided by largely local banks.
It was learnt that when the delivery is completed it would up the rating of Nigeria’s aviation industry in the global air transport market. Overland Airways is also expecting the delivery of its aircraft to start from the first quarter of this year, if there are no last minute changes. Looking at the benefits of brand new aircraft to the airline, key member of Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) and the CEO of Top Brass Aviation Limited, Captain Roland Iyayi, told THISDAY that brand new aircraft would be economical to the airline because in the first five years of its operation there won’t be schedule maintenance but routine maintenance, except there is incident, which would call for schedule maintenance.
He said new aircraft increase customer confidence because to a large extent passengers believe that new aircraft would be safer but it is merely psychological because any aircraft deemed airworthy by regulatory authority is safe. But because of the belief of passengers, the new aircraft will attract more passengers, which means the new equipment would be recording high load factor and reduced cost of maintenance will make the aircraft profitable to the airline.
“Essentially, brand new aircraft saves money for the airline. Between four to five years, the airline will engage in routine maintenance. There will be unscheduled maintenance but schedule maintenance during the period will be minor. Chances will be that the airline will start getting more patronage. So load factor will be high. Reduced maintenance cost will make the airline profitable in the long run,” he said.
Iyayi also said new aircraft would reduce capital flight because it will not be flown overseas for checks; as new aircraft it will be subjected to minor in-country maintenance.
Travel expert and organiser of Akwaaba African Travel Market, Ambassador Ikechi Ukoh, told THISDAY that the airlines should be commended for acquiring brand new aircraft but noted that the facilities at the airports in Nigeria currently cannot enhance the benefits of the new equipment. He noted that airport facilities couldn’t effectively serve existing aircraft, adding that bringing additional aircraft will make airport services cumbersome.
He advocated for the upgrade of airport facilities in order to dovetail with the new aircraft that would be coming and more aircraft that would come and join the market. His observation also confirms the feedbacks from passengers during the Yuletide who complained of shambolic services at the airports during the high season when airports could not effectively facilitate passenger and cargo movement at many airports in the country.
“40 Brand new aircraft coming in the next 36 months will exacerbate the problems at the airports. There will be enough passengers that will fill the planes, but everybody has problem loading passengers into the planes. Facilities currently at the airports cannot carry that number of aircraft; so bringing new aircraft will compound the problems on ground. There will be chaos at most of the airports, especially at the Lagos and Abuja airports. The new aircraft will be fuel efficient so they will save fuel on long distance flights and maintenance will be low and cheaper,” Ukoh said.