CHAIRMAN of the 22nd League of Airports and Aviation Correspondents (LAAC) Seminar, Barrister Allen Onyema have said that Nigerian airlines are not being protected by government and this has contributed immensely to foreign carriers pillaging of the Nigerian market.
This is just as he welcomed the national carrier being established by the country but asked for a level playing field for the domestic investors who have put their monies in the airline business without any form of support and protection from government and are expected to thrive in the harsh economic environment where foreign airlines not Nigerian are giving preference.
Barrister Onyema, who is the chairman of Air Peace, who made this known while giving his remark at the LAAC 2018 seminar with the theme: ‘Financing Aviation Development Through Private Sector Partnerships,’ which held at the Sheraton Hotels and Towers in Lagos,said that what Nigeria allows with regards foreign airlines originating flights from the country is not allowed anywhere in Africa and this affects the airlines and the country in turn.
He gave examples of how government officials choose not to protect Nigerian carriers but open up advantages to others especially African airlines who end up stifling Nigerian carriers.
“ASKY was established in Togo and their population is not as many as Lagos yet they are flying into Nigeria and other countries meaning their market is not Togo yet when we (AirPeace) wanted to go there, we were given approval in Nigeria only to get there and we were told we cannot fly. I went to the media and also threatened to file legal action and then someone comes to me and says don’t go to court? This is supposed to be where the country stands up for the airline but no. Eventually they decide to give us the approvals we need to fly them they charge $5000 landing and yet we say we are protecting our own, Up until now, we are not flying into Cote’dvoire because of their ludicrous charges yet Air Cote’dvoire flies here, so how have we protected our airlines from being fleeced.”
Onyema lamented all the propositions by so-called ‘experts’ who in his opinion have led not just government but many operators awry with their advise which is usually just well packaged misinformation aimed at swaying things to their advantage.
The Air Peace boss said,” one of the major problems in this industry is the so-called experts whose only experience is that they worked for Nigeria Airways and they will now make up all sorts of stories. These people will provide advise when they plan to target an airline, when they want to kill it. One time it was a complain about Dana Air MD-83 aircraft that it is old etc but that aircraft is the mainstay of American Airlines, Delta, A,eric an airlines still use the McDonnell Douglas.”
He also said that at a point, some ‘expert’ started advising government that no airline should fly international if it isn’t up to five years.
” Then there was a concoction that for airlines to survive they have to be force merged or have twenty aircraft, I say and pardon my words, that is balderdash. You cannot force airlines to merge, like the previous speaker said, you need to try to create synergy by interline not force them to merge or say they need to have 20 aircraft. All over the world there are airlines with two , sometimes one aircraft and they operate within their capacity. If it’s only Lagos- Abuja they fly to they fly. You do not say because they have one aircraft they have to die.”
“We are in an industry that does not forgive mistakes and us operators have mortgaged everything to make our operations survive in this unfriendly conditions. Bring any legacy carrier to operate here in Nigeria and that legacy airline will last only 72hours because of the gruelling business environment configured from day one to stifle and squeeze you.”
” we have to leverage on cooperation to survive,” he advised,”Airpeace, Medview, Topbrass can come together and survive, we have failed to cooperate because there is a bit of mistrust among airlines but the sky is too big for us not to thrive. We have everything it takes to make am airline survive and that tells you we need to come together.”
On the upcoming Nigeria Air just announced at the Farnborough Airshow in London, Onyema welcomed it but had his apprehension especially as what it entails as a national carrier.
He said, ” if you say it’s a national carrier and it is private investors driven are you not saying it is just investors like me, Alhaji Bankole and other investors? So you are simply saying that government is just supporting another private airline? I do not have a problem with the national carrier per se it is welcome but it must not be given any undue advantage over other airlines as the owners are investors too. Now, as this airline is coming on stream are they going to take routes already allocated to other airlines and give it to this carrier? These are the things government has not told us.”
Also contributing on that debate, Resource person and chairman African Business Aviation Association(AfBAA), Mr. Nick Fadugba called on the minister as a matter of urgency when he returns, to meet with Nigerian airline operators and iron out the gray areas as there is a looming challenge if that is not done.