Experts weigh obstacles to Nigeria’s airlines growth, airports’ viability, chart way forward

Participants at the event, including 5th from left, Ikechi Uko, publisher of ATQNEWS and orgniser of AviaCargo Conference in Lagos


Posted by Sade Williams


Experts from aviation and other fields on Wednesday, discussed the impediments to the growth of Nigerian airlines as well as factors responsible for the unviability of some airports in Nigeria as they also charted way forward for the sector.

At a  2-day programme on Aviation and Cargo Conference organised by the Publisher of ATQ News, Mr. Ikechi Uko, former Managing director, Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Richard Aisuebeogun, who set the tone for the programme and delivered a paper on the Viability of Airports in Nigerian and why Airlines fail’, identified factors such as  unstable forex which affects direct operational cost, Jet fuel, spare parts, insurance and simulator training and more, as those responsible for the high mortality rate of Nigerian airlines

Other factors include management arbitrariness and owner – manager over daunting influence on major decisions, lack of business-friendly environment for local industry as against foreign competitors.

He also identified what he termed as ‘official corruption’ and high debt profile as those issues militating against the existence of the airlines

While identifying multiple designation of foreign airlines on Nigerian routes as one of the issues, he also contended that such may not be a problem as domestic airlines can enter into partnerships with the airlines.

“Among all these, in my personal opinion, airlines must think of how they can benefit from multiple designation because I do not think it is a big problem, they can sign Codeshare agreement and go into other partnerships with the foreign carriers but our weakness is that we do not have a strong carrier that can compete favourably with them”, he said.

But a former commandant of Lagos airport, Group Captain John Ojikutu (rtd), disagreed with the opinion, saying multiple designation was killing the airlines’ operations.

” Government needs to create market for domestic airlines, there is the need to restrict foreign airlines to maximum of two routes in Nigeria”, he said.

Aisuebeogun, while charting way forward for the carriers, called on the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) to live up to its responsibility in terms of economic regulations of airlines.

He said there is need to set up Aviation Development Fund in other to help the airlines when in dire straits.

“The moment an airline begins to owe staff salaries up to three months, then the NCAA should know there is something wrong” .

Ojikutu called on airlines to change their business plans in other to break even.

“Many of the airlines are just recycling the same and old business plans, uf by airline flies to Abuja for less than $100, they can’t break even, they need to review their business plan or else, that won’t survive beyond 10 years” , he added.

Speaking on airports visibility, Aisuebeogun said the geographic location of an airport; it’s tourism potential; funding among others may affect the traffic flow in and out of the airport.

Although, he called for a paradigm shift and asked authorities to look beyond airlines and their services at airports, he said, ‘the viability of an airport is a function of the airlines’.

Daniel Young, Managing director, Daniel Young Global Investment Ltd, cautioned that no airport should be tagged unviable because they are feeder airports and created for specific purpose.

Engineer Benedict Adeyileka, Rector, International Aviation College, Ilorin, while calling for dedicated power stations for airport, he also called for infrastructure to encourage connectivity around the airports.

Aisuebeogun called for hybrid Public-Private Partnership initiative to turn the airports around, adding multinational financial organisations such as African Development Bank, should be encouraged to  support aviation in Nigeria.

Also speaking,  Mr. Chris Aligbe, Managing director, concluded that concession remains the only solution to Nigeria’s airports ageing  infrastructure .

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