The chairman of Air Peace Airlines, Mr. Allen Onyema has cried out over the precarious situation of the country’s airlines, saying that the country’s carriers are destined to fail from the beginning due to scarcity of foreign exchange, lack of Maintenance Repair Overhaul (MRO), multiple taxation and bureaucracy that he said had done incalculable damage to the airlines.
Onyema who spoke as a lead speaker at the second-quarter business meeting of Aviation Round Table (ART) with the theme, “Aviation Reset: Agenda For The New Dispensation” stated that given the same scenario, he doubted if any foreign carrier would survive under the same condition the country’s carriers operate.
He called on the Federal Government to review the Bilateral Air Services Agreements (BASA) the country has with foreign nations, lamenting that the policy was skewed against Nigerian airlines.
He cited the lack of aircraft maintenance facilities that have the capacity to undertake the repairs of aircraft in Nigeria saving the country several billions of Naira annually to capital flight.
A former Managing Director of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) Capt. Rabiu Yadudu last year said the lack of functional aircraft maintenance facilities otherwise known as Maintenance Repair Overhaul (MRO) cost Nigeria $2.5 billion (about N1.25 trillion) in 2021 in MRO investments in neighboring countries like Ethiopia, Morocco, Egypt, United Arab Emirates, South Africa, and other nations with advanced maintenance facilities.
Having such investments here in Nigeria according to the FAAN boss would have created more employment opportunities for Nigerians, revenue generation, and training of technical personnel for the maintenance of aircraft.
The Air Peace boss frowned at the recent report of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) that clearly shows the airlines’ poor record in the area of flight delays and cancellations, chiding the regulatory body for not listing the causes of the delay which he noted is mostly caused by VIP movement, weather, lack of adequate infrastructure and issues related to fueling.
To him, the cause of the delays and cancellations should have been included in the report, adding, “Let us go and bring the best of airlines in the world without support from the government, they will not last 72 hours.”
“When we talk about delays, it is not the duty of airlines to chase birds around the airport. This year, we have had 18 bird strikes. Once a delay happens, it would be very difficult to have prompt flight services for that day. There was a day we had two bird strikes and this costs us $3 million to fix an engine of the aircraft. Local production of jet fuel is one of the solutions to flight delays.”
Yadudu countered Onyema stressing said passengers’ satisfaction must be given priority, stressing it was of no use for airlines and the relevant aviation agencies to pass the buck of their inefficiencies to the travelers, hinting that many of the travelers are not concerned about the technicalities that cause incessant delays but to take them to their destinations as at when due.
Former President of ART, Dr. Gabriel Olowo expressed concern over the state of the country’s airlines, saying they are very weak, small, and fragmented.
He said Air Peace with 30 aircraft, Arik Air 17, Max Air 13, Dana Air seven, Overland Airways with seven aircraft, Ibom Air seven, ValueJet four, Azman 5, Rano Air 5, United Nigeria 4, and Green Africa 3, all totaling 104 aircraft by the eleven carriers is less than Ethiopian Airlines that parades 144 aircraft in its fleet.
“Tell me, competing out there, will be a herculean task without collaboration, cooperation, and or merger. The merger was successful in banking and should be successful in aviation, dwelling on fleet size rather than share capital”.
“On time Performance (OTP) of Nigerian airlines is woeful and deplorable with an average of 61% delay (except Ibom Air 30%) yet very far below the acceptable world average. Sustaining flights in a slot regime such as in London, New York, and Johannesburg among others with such deplorable on-time performance (OTP) will be practically impossible.”
Olowo further stated that truth be told; this is either a reflection of inadequate fleet size, poor maintenance, and or inefficient workforce outside the questions of weather, technical, and others.
“According to flight data on Q1 2022 by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), a total of 23,599 flights were operated on domestic routes in the first three months of 2022. Out of the figure, 14,130 flights were cancelled in Q1 2022 on domestic routes, representing 59.87 percent of such flights”, he added.