Nigeria’s domestic airlines under the aegis of Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON), has waived aside the ongoing notion that attributed reasons why the airlines challenged the modalities for the composition and the proposed take off of Nigeria to fear of competition.
Correcting the notion is the Chairman of Air Peace, Barrister Allen Onyema, in a question and answer segment moderated by Mr. Raphael Kuuchi, Director, Government, Legal, & Industry Affairs of African Airlines Association (AFRAA), while appearing as the guest of the African Airlines Association’s (AFRAA), February 2023 edition of the monthly “AFRAA Sky Connect Leadership Dialogues session.”
Barrister Onyema, who is the Vice President of AON while describing the insinuation that the domestic airlines were afraid of competition as false, declared at the February edition of the Skyconnect dialogue forum that none of the rumoured reasons presented as question by Mr. Raphael Kuuchi, was responsible for the litigation.
According to Onyema, the domestic airlines were not afraid of competition but rather, demand for fairness, equity, and transparency in all business dealings by both government and private initiatives that would be prospecting in the air transport sector of the national economy.
The AON VP challenged Kuuchi to show interest in the ongoing court case instituted by the airlines to stop the Nigeria Air deal at the Lagos high court in other to get the clear reasons for the airlines position.
Onyema himself a barrister at law further explained that he was very mindful of contempt of the court hence, would not dwell on any issue pertaining to Nigeria Air which is already in the temple of justice for adjudication.
Reacting to the notion that the lack of capacity by the Nigerian airlines may be responsible for why foreign airlines want to expand their operations to the country’s domestic scene, Onyema cited example of how the Air Peace airline had ordered for 30 brand new aircraft from Boeing and Embraer out of which five had arrived in line with the airline’s expansion policy.
Onyema equally dropped the hint of an ongoing effort of Air Peace to gradually take delivery of the remaining 25 aircraft on its order in the year to beef up its capacity as it gears up to further spread its wings to more regional and international routes.
He used the opportunity to appeal to AFRAA leadership to among others, assist the airline in recovering its funds trapped especially in Cameroon and some regional destinations like Gambia, Gabon, Sierra-Leon and Togo, where ticket sales are yet to be repatriated and the prohibitive charges from the government of most of the states in West Africa.
Onyema used the opportunity to speak on how some members of AON had formed an alliance named, “Spring Alliance” in order to provide seamless aviation services to travelers, and cargo handlers and to make for ease of service delivery for the airliners.
Asked if the AON was making efforts to review the scheduling that makes almost all the first flights on a work day from Lagos to Abuja, depart same time at 7 am and the need for collaboration to reduce the number of aircraft for improved load factor in other to create space in the scheduling during the peak periods, Onyema answered by saying that interlining and spacing of schedules would end up causing some aircraft to be parked, which could subsequently affect safety issues and revenue generation.
On why Air Peace, the largest Nigerian domestic operator was yet to leverage the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) and the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) to boost its regional and continental operations, Onyema while desiring the two trade treaties as fantastic however, cited hoe the insincerity of the sovereign states was militating against the workability of the trade policies.
He backed up this clause with Air Peace airline experience with a neighbouring country whose airline despite doing five weekly frequencies to Nigeria, for months refused to approve Air Peace’s request to reciprocate under an existing Bilateral Air Services Agreement (BASA), while not asking for anything excess.
The situation Onyema said got so bad that after a series of reminders, the neighbouring country finally wrote to tell Air Peace management never to write them on that request yet, this neighboring-country registered airline enjoyed unfettered operations in Nigeria.
Not until when it became clearer that the airline from the affected country would as a reciprocal be halted by the court in Nigeria that the government of the country shifted the ground only to introduce another bottleneck through did the needful but lurked in the prohibitive charges slammed on the Nigerian airline.