Nigeria: Examining Stiff Competition Among Airlines

18 June 2021

In 2018, there was a voice recording trending then that was allegedly attributed to the leader of Omega Fire Ministries, Apostle Suleiman. The message had prophesied impending doom on various transport companies and had urged members of the public not to fly one of the airlines then.

The message was all over social media, as people who received the message broadcast and sent it to friends and family and soon it went virile. This continued until Apostle Suleiman discredited and disowned the voice in a press statement.

A couple of days after, another message started trending. This time it was another airline. The report was allegedly made by a pilot warning the public not to fly the airline, alleging that it had technical challenges.

The message was passed around that the airline was not maintaining its aircraft. This continued until it was also discredited. Later it was found that the two obnoxious messages were sponsored by another airline that unscrupulously wanted to increase its market share.

THISDAY also learnt that ground staff of airlines run one another down, by misinforming passengers about rival airlines. This phenomenon has been in the aviation industry over the years.

Few days ago, the Governor of Akwa Ibom claimed in a video that it acquired two Airbus A220 brand new, but there was earlier report about how the two aircraft were leased from Air Sinai by the airline.

Industry stakeholders have frowned upon such claim, saying that it should be discouraged by the regulatory authority, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA).

The claim prompted the Chief Operating Officer of Air Peace, Mrs. Toyin Olajide to clarify that the aviation industry in Nigeria and globally was aware that nearly a decade now it is only Air Peace that has acquired brand new aircraft in Nigeria.

Olajide said it is public knowledge that Air Peace made firm order for 13 Embraer E195-E2 aircraft and the new aircraft, which Embraer showed the world when it was in the production line has started arriving.

"The first one arrived in January 28, the second came on March 18 and the third one is coming in on June 17, 2021. They are flown directly from the manufacturing facility in San Jose, Brazil. The 13 aircraft we ordered will be brought into the country by the manufacturer, Embraer. I don't understand the tendency to deceive the public by claiming an aircraft that was leased from another airline is brand new," the Air Peace COO said.

Industry stakeholders have also acknowledged that what would guarantee the success of Nigerian carriers is if they work together and forget the ongoing backbiting, which many attribute as the reason why Nigerian airlines go under after 10 years.

The operators have also admitted that such cutthroat competition cannot benefit any airline; rather, it leaves so much animosity and bitterness to exist among them, noting that it is one of the reasons why Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) is not strong and influential as it should be.

The stakeholders noted that why the US-based airlines are very successful is because of their collaboration, stating that codeshare and interline became very successful in the US and they have become eternalized.

Aviation consultant who is also the Chief Executive Officer of African Aviation Services Limited and the President of African Business Aviation Association (AfBAA), Nick Fadugba had spoken extensively about collaboration among Nigerian airlines and had noted that it would be difficult for Nigerian airlines to go it alone and compete on international routes with foreign carriers; unless they work together.

He had said the key for survival of the domestic carriers is partnership.

"First of all, I am very passionate about aviation in Nigeria, I believe we are not where we should be today, given our resources. There is no market in Africa that is comparable to Nigeria. Whether you are a market lady or a board chairman, we travel; we are a nation of traders.

"Many foreign airlines are coming into Nigeria making good profit and yet most Nigerian airlines, to the best of my knowledge, are not making a lot of money," Fadugba noted.

He also said, "In fact, some airlines are quite poorly financed, so we need to do better. You know the international aviation industry has changed dramatically since the days of Nigerian Airways; today no airline can succeed working alone. "Therefore, I want to once again appeal to airlines in Nigeria to come together, to work together in operations, training and maintenance. We need to partner. Even if we don't merge we need to partner with one another," he said.

Fadugba also observed that if airlines don't have a critical mass in terms of size, in term of good management, in terms of fleet, in terms of good network, it would be very hard for them to succeed.

"So we have the market in Nigeria, we are very fortunate but the fact is that our airlines are at the moment not of the size that can compete effectively against the big airlines coming into Nigeria".

This was why the industry commended the collaboration between Ibom Air and Dana Air which recently signed code-share agreement and other airlines have been urged to do the same because working together has invaluable benefits, which would be taken away by the current competition style full of bitterness and animosity.

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