Chairman of United Nigeria Airlines, Prof. Obiorah Okonkwo has stated that the new six-aircraft policy that the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) is pursuing is a way of dabbling into the business model of airlines and one that is not healthy to grow the sector.
He noted that the business model of airlines should be their prerogative rather than that of the regulatory authority, stressing that the reason of flight delays and cancellations canvassed by the agency for its new position that new entrants and existing ones would henceforth have six airplanes does not hold water.
Fielding questions from reporters when the International Air Transport Association (IATA) Area Manager, West and Central Africa, Dr. Samson Fatokun presented the IATA certificate of membership to United Nigeria Airlines in Lagos on Thursday
He said, “You may be surprised to know that there are Air Operator Certificate (AOC) owners in this country who are members of Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) and they have only one helicopter servicing oil industry, and they’re happy with the need that it what was needed to be able to operate its business model. When you go to other parts of the world, there are people that have just two airports service.”
“The issue is that the number of aircraft you have does not determine how fast you get to a destination and it does not solve the problem of delay. Because of your problem of delay. The problem of delay is due to weather and other factors that have nothing to do with the number of aircraft you have. We started with four aircraft and today we have expanded based on our growth.
“Most times, airlines delay flights possibly when the Instrument Landing System (ILS) is not calibrated or other factors. No airline wants to deliberately delay or cancel flights because it is a huge loss to the carriers”.
Okonkwo lamented that because of the poor utilization of aircraft occasioned by the fact that airlines do not operate to some airports beyond 6 p.m., an average functional aircraft can operate for 15 to 18 hours daily, but Nigerian airlines fly an average of only seven hours or less.
The bottlenecks experienced as a result of inadequate infrastructure, bad weather in most cases, and the prevalence of unexpected VIP movements have forced airlines into a very difficult situation and made them not have value for their airplanes which cost so much just as many of the airplanes are on lease rentals.
The carriers pay for huge bloc hours on their aircraft and find it extremely difficult to break even because of a situation that is none of their fault.
He disclosed that the operators had been making sacrifices to ensure that they continue to put their aircraft in the sky because of the astronomic increase in the price of jet fuel which has risen to almost N1000 per litre.
Obiorah expressed joy over the enormous safety work to become a member of IATA, saying the membership of IATA would afford his airline the opportunity to do more.
“We’ve got our AOC certificate that happened at 6 p.m. on a particular day. But I got a call in the morning that AOC was ready and I flew down to Lagos. We picked it up and other documentation we needed to do. By 7 pm, We said we were going to have our first flight at seven o’clock the next day.”
‘In less than 12 hours after we got our AOC, the stage was set for our first flight and since that time, we have not slowed down. I thank you very much for noticing already the difference we are making with this engagement and relationship. A lot more that is what we were looking for global games that will come up in Houston that we have been designated to”.