NIGERIAN domestic airlines have been described as neither having the capacity to operate on international flights, nor meet with the Bilateral Air Service Agreement (BASA) they entered into with over 50 countries.
Many of them currently bogged down by various challenges, their hitherto competitive edge may have gone out through their respective rustic wings.
They are constantly agitating for more routes when it is obvious they do not have the capacity. They already have flight right as enshrined in the BASA between Nigeria and other nations.
Why other carriers especially from Europe utilise theirs, the nation’s carriers have no answer for the predatory nature of foreign mega airlines.
BASA is an agreement, which two nations sign to allow international commercial air transport services between their territories.
According to experts, there are procedures, processes and certain requirements that the Nigerian airlines need to acquire before they can be qualified to operate on foreign routes, which most the local carriers have failed to abide.
Consequently, the country may have lost over N100 billion in form of capital flight by the operation of foreign airlines, who are capitalising on the operational inertia of the local carriers.
It could be recalled that Nigeria has over 60 BASA across the globe with different countries for economic and air transportation benefits, but Nigerian airlines do not have the capacity and capability to reciprocate the pact, as only about 15 were being serviced while the others were virtually of little benefit, except for commercial income of $20 per seat carried by the foreign airline on routes not plied by Nigerian airline.
Speaking on the issue, the President of Aviation Round Table (ART), Captain Dele Ore said that the local carriers are required to meet particular criteria, experience and financial & managerial capacities that would enable them meet the standards of operating international flights.
Also, the Group Captain John Ojikutu rtd, reiterated that the Nigerian local carriers do not have the capacity, the fund, the aircraft and management to survive on international routes.
According to him, they do not have the capacity to airlift the local passengers in Nigeria, in terms of aircraft, to talk of foreign passengers.
He said: “We are talking of remodelling 11 airports in the country, how many passengers go to Sokoto, Kaduna, Warri, Enugu, Uyo, Owerri, Bauchi, Madugari, today. Those vibrant ones are, Abuja, Lagos, Port Harcourt and Kano airports. “I would advise the government to concentrate on these four airports and put more money on them, instead of spending resource on those airports that are not vibrant”.
His words: “The government should stop them from going to those places. Let them be limited to viable routes, so that when British Airways drops passengers in Lagos, our domestic airlines can carry them to Abuja or when Virgin Atlantic drops passengers in Abuja, our local carriers can take them to Lagos.
“By so doing, our domestic airlines will make more money that way. But when the government allows these foreign airlines to carry the passengers to these places, where the local airlines are supposed to make money, you are killing them, and you are saying that you are helping them by giving them fund from the central bank.
He continued, “You are not making them to grow, by giving them invention fund, which they cannot pay back. They owe for landing, parking, aircraft services, and they have not been able to pay. If you want to establish them with fund to help the domestic airlines, let them know that you are giving them free. Don’t give them intervention fund that they would not be to make good account of ”.
Ojikutu however, advised that airlines should buy aircraft that they can be able to manage, so as to survive in their airline business.
The Director, Research and Strategy Zenith Travel and Tours, Olumide Ohunayo said: “Well, Nigeria is under utilizing its BASA, because we have opted for toll collection rather than participate. Therefore, built a finance chest that was subject of authorization at a time, presently opened for the airport-remodeling programme.
According to him, “if the airlines cannot operate foreign routes why are they not attracting code share partnership with foreign airlines?
He cited that Etihad Airways has code share with Kenya Airways while Air France did the same with Air Burkina and Air Mali, yet they are all increasing gauge and frequency into Nigeria. We need to address it.
Meanwhile, the Federal Government’s open skies policy with other countries has been said to only favour foreign airlines over their Nigerian counterparts, as over $700 million is being made by foreign airlines in form of capital flight.
The open skies policy was first introduced by the United States to liberalise the skies and provide for seamless operations of air transportation among countries.
The policy is expected to in the long run to favour the country that enters into the agreement and then, the consumers of aviation services of those countries.
Currently, over 24 foreign countries operate flights in and out of Nigeria with over 80 frequencies. Although, the agreement was signed in the hey days of Nigeria Airways when the airline could at least reciprocate some of the frequencies operated into Nigeria from Dubai, London, Johannesburg, Kenya, US and others, the reverses was the case now, as foreign airlines continue to take undue advantage of Nigeria’s nonchalant attitude to its domestic business.
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