Sometime in June this year, there was an atmosphere of glad tidings for the indigenes of Rivers State, Nigeria as Turkish Airlines flagged off her newly incorporated Port Harcourt route.
It is no news the Nigerian Government has continued her streak of generosity to major full service carriers across the globe ensuring every international terminal in the country is connected to the world no matter the cost. This gesture by the Federal Government appears to hold strong convictions as regards its advantages, yet very unhealthy for the Nigerian Aviation Market.
Of course it is clear the Federal Government rakes in a whole lot of revenue from these foreign airlines no doubt Nonetheless the monetary proceeds gotten from these carriers is nothing compared to the viability potential inherent within the Nigerian Airline market already being mortgaged hence the problems of foreign carrier domination.
Just recently ASKY Air was given rights to fly passengers from Lagos to Johannesburg, weeks before Air Peace is to commence her Int’l operations, needless to state the awful consequences of the policies governing how we fly in Nigeria. There are over 18 international carriers picking up passengers from Nigeria and over 60% of these carriers have multiple entries in some cases triple entries into Nigeria, with Ethiopian topping the list at 4 entries which includes Lagos, Abuja, Kaduna and Enugu. I must say this is a rather awful situation.
Studying Agriculture, it is said a porous soil risks being eroded as much as I could liken this to the Nigerian Airline Market as we know it today, it is clear how much we are putting on the line. I could posit these unpatriotic policies on foreign airline operations if sustained could spell the unfortunate collapse of the Nigerian Airline market as we know it. This also is one of the many reasons Nigeria Airways failed as load factor dropped revenue fell, thus paving the way for mismanagement.
How will a National Carrier (Nigeria Air) survive when her home is crowded with hungry visitors feasting on her already limited store of resources? Turkish, Emirates, Lufthansa, ASKY, RwandAir, and even little AWA amongst others gets multiple entries and unthinkable frequencies thus squashing any possible load factor for local carriers.
Air Peace Airlines unlike her counterparts has for a while now modelled in a strategic approach to dampen down the harsh effects of these outcomes hence their codeshare deals with these major full carriers, and so, Air Peace can fly Emirates passengers connecting from Port Harcourt or any other city within the federation to major Emirates pickup points within the country, hence having a bite of the cake. Also with her Boeing 777 aircraft, Air Peace can fly passenger from Nigeria to her major international destinations and then continue to other minor international destinations with her codeshare airlines. As much as this approach would yield positively it still wouldn’t hide the damage foreign carrier domination has brought on already.
A little restraint from the federal government wouldn’t hurt you know. Last year passenger traffic for local airlines was at its highest since its decline after 2015 and this was attributed to the cut in frequency and aircraft size by foreign carriers during the recession, airlines like emirates who usually operated a 14 flight weekly cut down to 7 flights weekly halting its Abuja operations, sadly the cut has being rescinded and emirates now operates a 21 flights weekly from Nigeria.
Prior to 2015 most local airlines operated int’l routes sadly only Air peace remains on the list. One key factor to this outcome is the foreign carrier domination. So why are stakeholders silent to these developments, As much as Air Peace is doing a lot to mitigate these outcomes she is just one airline fighting really hard, she cannot win without some efforts from her Government. A little restraint wouldn’t hurt. In fact a 15% cut on entries would depict a rise in load factor for local airlines to about 8% as roughly over 39% of the total traffic on local flights from minor cities in Nigeria are connecting passengers for int’l routes.
With these I couldn’t agree any less with Air Peace boss Allen Onyema as regards SAATM. If the Nigerian Airline market is suffering this bad prior SAATM I wonder what would become of it after SAATM is fully implemented. Until the Federal Government applies restraint, foreign carriers will keep increasing capacity, frequency and squashing local carriers who would keep begging for traffic.
Jesse-Alex Oparachi Omenazu is a Flight Operations Officer, an Aviation Writer and a Pilot Trainee. He is also a member of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport UK, He writes from Abuja, Nigeria. He can be reached by email: email@example.com