Nigeria Air: Local operators seek level playing field


Some domestic airline operators on Thursday urged the Federal Government to ensure a level playing field for them and the new national carrier.

The airlines spoke at the 22nd Annual Seminar and Award of the League of Airports and Aviation Correspondents (LAAC) in Lagos.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the theme of the event is “Financing Aviation Development Through Private Sector Partnership”.

The Chief Executive Officer of Air Peace, Mr Allen Onyema, said the airline was not afraid of the new national carrier, but maintained that all privileges given to it should be extended to other airlines.

“Government must do everything possible not to frustrate existing carriers because of private investment of the growing airlines in the country.

“This is because the creation of a level playing field remains critical to the sustenance of an effective aviation sector,” he noted.

Onyema said domestic carriers were still looking forward to seeing how the national carrier which was unveiled as “Nigeria Air” on Tuesday in Farnborough, London would operate.

He said the domestic airlines would only be opposed to Nigeria Air if it was being used to frustrate their own operations.

According to him, the modality to allocate routes for the new national carrier will have to be looked into except the government is indirectly trying to decimate existing operators.

In his remark, the Managing Director, Topbrass Airlines, Capt. Roland Iyayi, said government should do everything to make the new national carrier succeed by securing the right access to markets on its routes.

Iyayi, however, said the existing national carrier policies were a disservice to the survival of private carriers which were not protected by government despite their huge investments.

He said it was regrettable that Nigerian carriers were competing on capacity and not on routes.

Iyayi maintained that the Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) needed to sit with the aviation minister to straighten the rough edges to enable a win- win for existing private sector carriers and the new national carrier.

In his remark, the Chairman, African Business Aircraft Association (AFBAA), Mr Nick Fadugba, canvassed partnership among carriers as a recipe for survival in an environment that was conducive when the operators were strong enough.

Fadugba raised posers why Nigerian carriers did not forge partnerships, which was key to success no matter the size of the carrier.

The aviation expert raised concerns why Nigerian carriers were not working together in areas of operations, training, spares and maintenance pooling.

While suggesting pooling of fleet, training of personnel, Fadugba said the sector had a long way to go until government introduces a more thorough approach to funding aviation.

He said there was a lot of uncertainty over the new national carrier because of the modality adopted for the project.

Fadugba said: “The government through the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) already owns Aero and Arik airlines implying three airlines under the ownership of the government which has not happened in any country before.

“I am suggesting that the government should adopt the model adopted for aviation in Singapore and United Arab Emirates for the industry to make progress.

He said as a strategy for successful airlines in the country, hub airports and smart facilities were required to drive the development of aviation.

Fadugba said statistics from the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) revealed that foreign carriers had control of majority of traffic in Nigeria which did not make strategic sense for any country serious about the business of aviation.

He said that Nigeria embraced Open Skies for aviation without considering the huge impact.

NAN reports that the Minister of State, Aviation, Hadi Sirika, on Wednesday unveiled the name of the new carrier as “Nigeria Air’’ with a logo encompassing the flowing green, white and green ribbon at the Farnborough Air Show in London.

The carrier, scheduled to begin operations by December, will replace the defunct Nigerian Airways which was liquidated in 2003 by the President Olusegun Obasanjo administration.