The Chief Executive Officer, African Aviation Services, Mr. Nick Fadugba, has urged Nigerian domestic carriers to form formidable partnerships in the country’s aviation sector that would position the airlines to compete favourably with foreign carriers.
Speaking at the 23rd League of Airport and Aviation Correspondents (LAAC), annual conference and awards held in Lagos, with the theme: “Boosting Aviation Investments Through Policy”, he said airlines globally are forming alliances in order to stay afloat and provide better service to air travellers noting that no airline can succeed working alone.
He stated that with huge aviation market available to airlines in the country, the carriers are still not operating profitable while foreign airlines operating in the country smile to the banks.
Faduba added that the airlines can pull their resources together through technical partnership, operations, training, and maintenance to compete the foreign mega carries from Europe, United States and the United Arab Emirates.
He said: “There is no market in Africa that is comparable to Nigeria. Whether you are a market lady or a board chairman, we travel, we are a nation of traders. Many foreign airlines are coming into Nigeria making good profit and yet most Nigerian airlines to the best of my knowledge are not making a lot of money. In fact some are quite poor financially, so we need to do better. You know the international aviation industry has changed dramatically since the days of Nigerian airways, today no airline can succeed working alone.
“And therefore I want to once again appeal to airlines in Nigeria to come together, to work together in operations, training, maintenance, we need to partner. Even if we don’t merge we need to partner with one another. The average fleet size in Nigeria is about maximum 10 aircraft and yet we are competing with British Airways that has over 400 aircraft. Delta airlines have over 500 aircraft even Ethiopian airlines has a 110 aircraft.
“So how can small airlines compete? And I am not being disrespectful by the way, I am talking about fleet size, I am not talking about commitment to the industry but I want to be realistic, because this industry is cut throat. If you don’t have a critical mass in terms of size, in term of good management, in terms of fleet, in terms of good network, it is very hard to succeed.
“So we have the market in Nigeria, we are very fortunate but the fact is that our airlines are at the moment do not have the size that can compete effectively against the big airlines coming into Nigeria.
Fadugba also called on the Nigerian government to review the Bilateral Air Service Agreement (BASA), that is presently not in favour with Nigerian carriers saying that foreign airlines are taking advantage of the absence of a national carrier in making huge gains over Nigerian airlines
“I regret the liquidation of Nigerian airways, I did not believe it was necessary. Up till today I still believe it was not necessary. Kenya airways was turned around and it was in a worse position than Nigerian airways at the time, so we could have saved it but we didn’t. However, since Nigerian airways was liquidated there was no airline to reciprocate on bilateral air service agreements, so foreign airlines gained a huge advantage over Nigerian airlines.
“But now we need to sit down, we need to review the situation. Don’t forget an air route to Nigeria is like an oil block, it has economic value, we cannot just be giving them away free of charge. These days’ people don’t like to pay for BASAs but the fact is until we have a stronger airline industry in Nigeria, we need to review the setup because all airlines in Nigeria including Air Peace are complaining that the system today is unfair, it is not in our interest.
“I also want to appeal to the government to support private airlines like Air peace and many others, of course we want a national carrier but this should not be done to the disadvantage of private carriers like Air peace. Air is launching long haul services to Dubai but they need support from government and from the flying public in Nigeria. I don’t see why Emirates coming into Nigeria from Dubai why they can’t partner with Air peace. If Air peace can partner with Emirates to Dubai it is a win-win. So Emirates shouldn’t have the lion share of the business and it is the government that can influence that.”
By Friday Nwosu