In a time Nigerian carriers are shouting themselves hoarse to cut down on multiple designations to foreign airlines, the carriers are clandestinely lobbying the Ministry of Aviation for more flights into the country, New Telegraph has learnt.
Besides, the carriers are lobbying influential people in government and some state governors for help to extend flight operations to many states in Nigeria, a situation that has far more implications for the growth of domestic airlines.
Not a few have lamented that foreign airlines are now designated to multiple routes within Nigeria, but this development threatens the survival of local airlines.
This newspaper gathered from a source close to some European carriers that they, in conjunction with their home countries, are mounting so much pressure to expand their operations in the country; a situation that defeats the Bilateral Air Services Agreement (BASA) Nigeria has with many of the countries.
BASAs are treaties signed between Countries to allow international commercial air transport services between territories.
BASAs promote international air link between countries, which supports and enables movement of persons, cargo, trade and tourism. These agreements provide the framework under which identified airlines from the two countries fly into designated ports in each other’s country.
Nigeria loses over N500 billion in capital flight yearly due to the lopsided air pact the country has with many countries. Nigeria’s carriers do not have the capacity to compete with their foreign counterpart. They are equally not protected by government policy, leaving predator foreign carriers that are having a field day in the country.
There are indications that the ticket sales of foreign airlines out of Nigeria could rise to N600 billion in no distant time, as more foreign airlines have been granted permission to operate to Nigeria, while many are taking away the domestic market from local airlines.
Nigerian airlines have been muscled, as they only make less than two per cent from the huge sales in the country.
For example, Ethiopia Airlines operates in five cities namely Enugu, Kano, Kaduna, Abuja and Lagos. Turkish Airlines operates in four cities: Abuja, Kano, Lagos and Port Harcourt, while Emirates Airlines operates two frequencies daily into Lagos and one to Abuja.
For instance, Turkish Airlines has just started Istanbul to Abuja, Abuja to Port Harcourt, Port Harcourt to Abuja, then Abuja to Istanbul. Lufthansa and Air France are also doing the same, thereby running indigenous airlines out of business.
While Emirates has two frequencies into Lagos and one to Abuja, it has announced plans to introduce a third flight in and out of Lagos to commence very soon, making it three flights daily to Lagos.
Indigenous airlines have the capacity to cover all the domestic routes being operated now by these foreign airlines. The practice in international aviation is for foreign airlines to partner with local airlines to help them distribute their passengers within the domestic routes.
Besides multiple designations, foreign airlines are being encouraged to do multiple frequencies into the country and within the country, a practice not allowed in other countries.
A few days ago, Rivers State Government and Ethiopian Airlines were said to have reached an agreement for the operation of permanent international flights from the Port Harcourt International airport subject to the approval of the relevant federal authorities.
The two parties reached the pact at the headquarters of Ethiopian Airlines in Addis Ababa after a meeting attended by the Group Chief Executive Officer of the airline, Dr Tewolde Gebremariam and other top managers.
Aviation safety consultant, Group Capt. John Ojikutu (Rtd), said Wike’s position is at variance with the position of the National Assembly on the matter.
He stated that while the National Assembly is planning to curtail foreign airlines’ incursion into “our domestic routes and reduce their multiple destinations in Nigeria, the state governors are thinking differently.