New Airlines Debuts on Nigeria’s Domestic Aviation Market

The domestic aviation market will soon witness a resurgence of activities with the coming on board of three new airlines. The new airlines are Nigerian Eagle Airline, Green Africa Airways and United Nigeria Airways.  The Nigerian Eagle Airways is born from the fusion of Arik Air, and Aero Contractors, two airlines under the administration of AMCON. While Green Africa Airways is at its final stages of acquiring an Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC), United Nigeria Airline has almost completed its demonstration flight operations. A source at the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) confirmed that they could start soon, as they are close to acquiring the Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC).

Green Africa, ahead of the scheduled commencement of operations, had given out 24 free tickets during the December 2020 promotion tagged ‘Tis the season to gIFT’ which was featured on its social media pages. In October 2020, Green Africa formed a strategic partnership with First City Monument Bank (FCMB), which yielded $31 million in a combination of standby letter of credit and rolling working capital.

United Nigeria Airline, as part of its preparatory move, on the 16th of January, performed its demonstration flight to Sam Mbakwe International Airport, Owerri from the Murtala Muhammed Airport (MMA) , Lagos. This is aside other AOC applicants at various stages of processing with the NCAA. It was also gathered that these three airlines have reached advanced stages to clinching the important document finally. An AOC is the approval granted by a national aviation authority (NAA) to an aircraft operator to allow it to use aircraft for commercial purposes. This requires the operator to have personnel, assets and system in place to ensure the safety of its employees and the public.

With the acquisition of their AOC, it means the three airlines will soon be joining other nine functional commercial airline operators in the country. Commenting on their entrance into airline business, President/CEO, Sabre Network Africa, Dr Gbenga Olowo, stated that Nigerian Airlines are not too strong as it is.

According to Dr Olowo, Nigeria needs airlines that can muster the courage of flying up to 30 aircraft and above.  Olowo said: “Looking at the sector, our airlines are not too strong. We have said it enough that they should merge. I hope the sense in merger will come to play with the new ones; otherwise, they will continue to parasite one another and at the end of the day, none of them may survive in another ten years, given all the constraints on ground now, including COVID-19 challenges and all that”.

Explaining further, the aviation expert noted that, “I hope we just don’t have airlines on paper, we want real airlines. We have been talking that we don’t want airlines with two aircraft. We want airlines with 30 aircraft, and it is doable. We have been talking about that again and again”.

“Me alone” syndrome in Nigeria has been the challenge and this me alone, die alone will not help the sector. We need machinery that will bring these airlines together. That would make the country proud of two, three strong airlines in the manner of speaking”, Dr Olowo said.

Advising further, Dr Olowo who is also the President of Aviation Safety Round Table Initiative (ASRTI) maintained; “Looking ahead, it is not very favourable. It might take us another two, three years to get to 2019 level and if we are expanding, we better expand sensibly and economically not just say I want to do airline for the sake of doing an airline. That is not it.”

Also commenting, Secretary General of Association of Nigerian Aviation Professionals (ANAP), Comrade Abdulrasaq Saidu, expressed optimism that the airlines will contribute their quota in the industry. Saidu, however, advised that they should manage the airlines professionally, employ experienced personnel and develop new routes instead of banking on the usual Lagos-Abuja routes.

According to him, Lagos – Akure, Lagos – Yola, Lagos – Maiduguri, Lagos – Ibadan, Lagos – Benin routes also need to be explored. Saidu also suggested that any airline coming up should not just present only two aircraft but should be able to at least start with 4 to 5 aircraft. According to him, these airlines should be able to collaborate with each other, possibly, merge into one big airline to be very strong.

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