By January 2025, Nigerian airlines are mandated to have six aircraft in their fleet, a policy some stakeholders describe as harsh and economically unsustainable. The policy requires six aircraft for an Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC), with four always airworthy, a stringent operational demand.

Potential new entrants however have raised some reservations to this policy expressing their difficulties in progressing.

A startup who spoke anonymously argued that the move is at variance with economic realities and spells doom before commencement.

Moreover, he revealed that the already distressed sector could buckle to this kind of pressure. According to him, since February 2023, his airline has struggled to source foreign exchange to purchase aircraft from the United States.

“After all our efforts to source the funds at the official window failed, we decided to source and transmit funds through alternative parallel market mediums. However, the lessors of the aircraft turned this down and requested payment options from a verifiable source with a proper link to the Lessee.” 

Former AON Deputy General Secretary, Alhaji Mohammed Tukur, recently expressed his strong opposition to this policy. He described it as crippling and advised its immediate reversal. “I expect the current NCAA Acting Director-General, Captain Chris Najomo, to cancel the policy forthwith,” Tukur stated. “I have no doubt that he, an experienced airline pilot with years of flying knowledge, will definitely do away with the policy because it is very retrogressive.”

Furthermore, Tukur pointed out the economic challenges that make this policy impractical. He also cited the difficulties startups face in securing foreign exchange to acquire aircraft. “I know of startups that made deposits for four aircraft but couldn’t secure enough foreign exchange to pay the balance.”

Tukur emphasized keeping a minimum of three aircraft, stating deploying six immediately is economically unfeasible for startups. He argued further that keeping aircraft idle is a monumental waste.

However, opinions are divided. The Secretary General of the Nigerian Aviation Professionals (ANAP), Comrade Abdulrasaq Saidu, supports the policy. He believes that the six aircraft requirement will help sanitize the industry and reduce flight cancellations. Sheidu remarked, “Airline business is not for jokers but for serious investors with the requisite capitals.”

An anonymous industry expert criticized the policy as biased against private operators in favor of the defunct Nigeria Air. He cites a previous interview by Captain Nuhu highlighting the harsh and economically unsustainable environment for Nigerian airlines. “Nigerian airlines are operating under a very hostile environment that makes it impossible for them to break even,” the expert quoted Captain Nuhu. “The cost of financing is 25 percent. That is killing to start with. You take a loan, and you are paying 25 percent of whatever you make to the bank. You are talking about your expenses, your current and long-term liabilities.”

In an appeal, the startup manager urged Minister Festus Keyamo to intervene and persuade Captain Najomo to suspend the policy. The appeal aims to benefit the industry.



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