Aviation experts have called for more cooperation among airlines operating in and from Nigeria in order to fully develop the industry and boost the economy.
This came just as the Chief Executive Officer, African Aviation Services Limited, Nick Fadugba, said the Federal Government should take a decision on Arik Air and Aero Contractors before the new national carrier could take off.
Fadugba, who spoke at a forum in Lagos, noted that the country was blessed with the biggest domestic aviation market on the African continent, bigger than South Africa, Kenya, Ethiopian and many other countries, but that it had yet to harness this market for the benefit of everyone, adding that the beneficiaries remained the foreign airlines.
“Our airlines need to work together. If you have five or even 10 aircraft, it is nothing in the world of aviation. If you look at Ethiopia, they have 100 aircraft; that is one airline, and yet we have 10 airlines here with maybe five aircraft each. We need to work together. We need more cooperation among our airlines,” he said.
The Director-General, Consumer Protection Council, Mr Babatunde Irukera, who also spoke at the forum, stated that one way for airlines to grow was to improve on their responses to customers’ complaints.
“The airlines have to measure their responsiveness and sensitivity indexes with respect to their consumers. One thing is that they do not even have the appropriate mechanism for people to call in and have complaints resolved. Ultimately, consumer issues are primarily soft infrastructure issues,” he said.
He added that he had recently met with the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority and airline operators to find collaborative ways to address consumer issues in the industry.
Meanwhile, Fadugba has said it will be wrong for the government to keep funding Arik and Aero with public funds while attempting to float a new carrier.
The Federal Government through the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria, some time ago, took over both airlines due to their debt profiles.
He said, “I think the government and the Ministry of Aviation need to sit down and really think carefully on what they want to do with Arik and what they want to do with Aero because they have used public funds to maintain these airlines. Effectively, the government owns 60 per cent of each of them and has now created a national carrier; so there is a little bit of contradiction here.
“We need to as a matter of urgency resolve what is happening to Arik. If the government wants to sell it to investors, let them please go ahead and do it. The same goes for Aero. I would love to see the three airlines working together; I think that will be a good strategy for Nigeria.”
According to Fadugba, there are many questions that need to be answered in terms of the management, funding and fleet for the new carrier.
He said the Federal Government, rather than doing it abroad, should explain to the whole nation what the concept of the new carrier was.
“More importantly, I’m interested in how does the national carrier interface with all the other airlines in Nigeria. Because remember that the government is the de facto owner of two other airlines: Arik and Aero. So, this is the first time I have seen one government own three airlines. The government needs to coordinate its airlines’ strategy in terms of moving forward,” he said.