PRESIDENT, Aviation Safety Round Table Initiative (ART), Dr. Gabriel Gbenga Olowo has insisted that for the sake of survival, and given their limited strength, airlines in the country should consider merging as the current trend of owner/manager will not held the industry.
This is just as he also insists the airlines got the rough end of the stick with regards the sharing of the N27bn palliatives stating that the N4bn given to airlines was meager compared to what government agencies got saying that the situation should be reverse
Dr. Olowo made this known last week as he responded to questions on the sidelines the LAAC/AIB Conference themed: Preventing Human Factors in Air Accident Investigations held at Sheraton Hotels and suites stating that the COVID-19 pandemic has shown the need for machinery that would bring these airlines together.
He said,” We should never stop progress. There is the old, the new and the now and the future. That is the challenge of now. 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 COVID-19 challenges and all 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 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 to be proud of two, three strong airlines in the matter of speaking.
On the N5bn bailout for the airlines, he described it as unfair that the airlines got a small part of the funds stating that the support to them was meager at best.
He also said that he was not in the position to tell the airlines and other beneficiaries of the N5bn palliatives how they should spend the funds as they are the ones who have the challenges and so should be the ones who know best how to apply the funds.
“The fellow that wears the shoes knows where it pains. You don’t have to tell them spend it here, spend it there. The airlines have so many challenges. It is all about employee wages, fuel, they owe all the agencies. The guy who wears the shoes know where it pains and palliative as small as it, we should allow the airlines to disburse as they deem fit.
“If you look at the meager palliative, a chunk of it went to the agencies of government. I thought the chunk should go to the airlines because without the airlines, all other service providers won’t be there. I am an advocate of stronger airline support. That support is still meager and I don’t think they got fair share and out of those shares again, they need to pay the debts to the agencies. I am very concerned with the share they got.
On the state of the industry, the ART President said the situation was looking bleak especially with the way the COVID-19 pandemic is ravaging the globe. According to him, it may take a couple of years to get aviation back to the level it attained in 2019.
“Aviation industry is looking very bleak. Even when I heard about vaccines coming out, vaccines do not prevent infection. I just pray that COVID-19 does not become everybody’s portion. Looking at the outlook, 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, “he said.