Posted by Sade Williams
Aviation experts, including former director general of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Dr, Harold Demuren; managing director, Nigerian Aviation Management Agency (NAMA); Chairman, Air Peace, Allen Onyema and Accountable manager, Dana Air, Obi Mbanuzo, on Thursday, advocated for massive investment on infrastructure, especially, in the area of technology in order to help the sector achieve the best during and post Covid-19.
They also called for intervention from government in the form of finance, zero or single digit interest rate on loans and accessibility to FOREX going forward.
Mbanuzo also specifically called for cooperation among airlines, saying this is one of the ways the operators may break even and conquer aero-politics.
They all made the position during a Webinar session on the topic ‘COVID – 19: The Challenges and Opportunities for Nigeria’s Aviation Value Chain During and Post – COVID -19’, organized by Aviation Safety Round Table Initiative (ASRTI) and monitored by Thetravelport.com.ng.
According to Demuren, there is need for agencies and airlines to enlighten the travelling public on the need for passengers to know that when they get to the airports and onboard airplanes, they are safe.
He said the biggest competition now comes from online meetings, adding that to make aviation attractive again, there is need to embrace technology and invest in other infrastructure that will make the sector boom again.
“How do we make passengers trust us again that they can fly, the biggest competition is now between online meeting and the sector, we have now see that those meetings they go for in Abuja and London can now done online, most business travellers go for these meetings and their companies pay for them, how do we get them back? How do we handle family vacation, I have seen online Weddings, they need to be assured of safety. Religious tourism is still with us but it may not be the same number.
“We have seen that online can be in 3D form, the President did Federal Executive Council meeting online recently, Governors’ forum same. So we have a great challenge ahead of us, we need to improve ourselves in the sector like the banking sector has greatly improved technologically. Airlines have not improved with technology, we can’t continue on this level we are now and we are supposed to be a high-tech sector. By now, we should be able to do almost everything that has to do with a flight on our phones. We should be able to book for flights, buy tickets, process boarding g on our phones so that contact with people will be minimised.
“We also need to support our own airlines, Government has to invest in infrastructure, we also talk about economic stimulus, access to fFOREX and sustainable interest rates”, Demure said.
Akinkuotu remarked that airlines should encourage passengers to check-in online to reduce contact with people.
“The major challenge will be technology, the last time I saw about 60 people in an online meeting, how do we get passengers back because they will get worried, how can I stay on an 11 hour flight without having contact with anybody? But I believe the human to human experience is still the best , therefore, we need to work on various technology that will improve flight experience, we need to leapfrog and get technology in place.
” Government should provide certain things to attract single digit on loans, Forex is a key factor in airline operations, VAT should be wiped out. And this is a game changer for us, we also need to abide by the protocols of the NCAA, the industry has survived after 9/11, we will beat Covid-19″, he said.
Also speaking, Onyema who supported the calls for innovation in technology, called on government to intervene financially, adding that the workforce in the sector is critical to the economy.
Onyema, who noted that airlines are the worst hit, said that the challenges have become so much that apart from other means, ‘airlines are looking up to government for help’.
“We are not asking for free money or to buy aircraft, we have to present our case. My paramount concern is the workforce, we have over 3, 000 staff, their livelihood is in danger, we need to do everything possible to protect jobs, we need money to pay salaries not buy airplanes.
” Every airline needs to think out of the box, we are rolling out some measures to encourage passengers to fly. There are so many things we cannot do on Zoom meetings, but just as we defeated 9/11 menace, we will defeat Covid-19″, he added.
Mbanuzo of Dana Air noted that the NCAA has given out a very concise document, adding that airlines are ready to abide by the protocols.
He added that Nigeria needs to look inward in terms of training, adding that Simulator training can be done locally if Government equips the only training school in Nigeria with Simulator.
“We have been dependent on training abroad; may I advocate that airlines or government can get Simulator in Nigeria for themselves to reduce cost of recurrency. There must also be cooperation among airlines, mergers may not be the way forward because of different goals but in the area of Aero – politics and passenger aggregation, we have to cooperate so that customers don’t suffer. Why can’t Dana Air sell Akure ticket to passengers for other airlines, I believe we are up to the challenges. We overcame SARS and 9/11, we will overcome this”, he stressed.