Ahead of the second edition of AviaDev coming up in Kigali Rwanda in October, 2017, Jon Howell (JH), MD, AviaDev spoke with Dikko Nwachukwu (DN) of jetWest - a new player in the African aviation market.
Having met during their time working for Aero Contractors as CCO and CFO respectively, jetWest has been co founded by Mr Dikko Nwachukwu and Mr Tunde Pampam. Their approach exudes passion and confidence and there is a real belief that jetWest can make air travel accessible to the many and not just the few on the African continent.
JH: How would you describe the jetWest model? Are you aiming to be an LCC and if so, would you say you are modelled on any airline in particular?
DN: The jetWest model is a LCC but it’s not your typical LCC like you have in Europe or the West. It has been tropicalized to work in this environment. For us it is about getting efficiency and productivity to the highest possible levels while streamlining our business. It will start in Nigeria, then West Africa and then Africa!
From a fiscal discipline standpoint we will like to be as aggressive as is humanly possible. It is a mentality. I wouldn’t say we have modeled on any one particular airline but we have learned from airlines like us that have started in a high cost, highly regulated environment such as Air Asia group and Indigo in India who have shown us the way.
JH: jetWest are betting on the YD being implemented to fuel your growth plans. The latest information coming from the AU is that January 2018 is the date for implementation, but there have been many false starts over the last 30 years. How optimistic are you that this can become a reality?
DN: I wouldn’t say we are betting on anything extraordinary to happen but we remain optimistic because we know that our neighbors in Africa are potentially our biggest trading partners or should be our biggest trading partners at least for small and medium size businesses. The truth is we have seen a similar thing happen in ASEAN region. Governments didn’t want to open skies up because they felt they needed to protect national carriers but when they saw the traffic growth and what it meant to their economies they quickly implemented open skies in that region and you see what’s going on over there today. In the event that our governments do not make open skies a reality we will just stick to our plan A, which we will not discuss openly at the moment. It is already in motion as we speak.
JH: You will launch using the A320. Another African LCC, Fastjet have just been through a painful experience moving from A319s to Embraer aircraft. Why do you feel this equipment is the best fit for JetWest?
DN: Well, I can’t speak for why it didn’t work for Fastjet, only they can answer that question. Firstly the good thing is that the senior management of jetWest are all experienced airline operators in this very tough environment, so we did a thorough analysis to decide on the A320. Secondly and perhaps most importantly, when you look at Nigeria which is our base market, you are dealing with a market that is aspirational. jetWest has a laser focus on growing our domestic market, we are about making the skies more available to those who didn’t believe it was available to them on a regular basis or even at all. We have a domestic air travel market of about 14 million people locally. That’s less than 10% of our population. When you look at the road travel numbers we are reaching 70-80 million people annually making long trips (This is already bigger market than the total population of Fastjet’s home market). We know that the road travel market is also segmented and we plan to convert at least 7 million of those top end road travelers in the next 5 years to air travelers (at least twice a year) then we will be well on our way to creating a travel revolution connecting our country and the region. The A320 allows us to do this efficiently with the lowest cost base.
If you would like an opportunity to meet with the jetWest team in person, register for AviaDev on www.aviationdevelop.com.