MR. Nick Fadugba, CEO of African Aviation Services has stressed that only by working together can Nigerian airlines survive in this dynamic industry they find themselves, an industry which has transcended over 30 years where no single airline can survive by being the lone-wolf.
This is just as he has said that Nigeria does need a national carrier but it must not be to the detriment of existing flag carriers, calling on government to give away the country’s Bilateral Air Service Agreements (BASAs) freely as they are major economic tools.
Mr. Fadugba made these submission at the League of Airport and Aviation and Correspondents(LAAC), 23rd Annual Conference and Awards yesterday with theme: Boosting Aviation Investments: Through Policy at the Radisson Blu Hotel, Ikeja Lagos.
According to the current AfBAA President, much has been achieved, but many challenges still remain and so African governments and regulators need to provide an enabling environment that will attract investment, while African airlines, should work together through inter-lining, code-sharing, joint ventures and mergers and acquisitions so as to form stronger carriers that can compete effectively and can grow and prosper.
Fadugba said,”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, the airlines I am not talking about is 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 not of the size that can compete effectively against the big airlines coming into Nigeria. I also want to appeal to the federal government of Nigeria, over the past 15 to 20 years since the demise of Nigerian airways, and I regret the liquidation of Nigerian airways, I did not believe it was necessary. Up till today I believe it was not necessary.
On BASAs and how government can protect airlines through their allocations he said:
” 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 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 Peace 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.