Nigerian carriers need to coalesce to scale up to get a critical mass. Hence, WOLE SHADARE writes that they can work together to grow the sector
Nigeria is blessed with the biggest domestic aviation market on the African Continent, bigger than South Africa, Kenya, Ethiopia and many other countries. Surprisingly, Nigeria has not been able to harness this market for her benefit. The beneficiaries are foreign airlines. Nigerian airlines need to work together. The acquisition of 10, five or less aircraft is nothing in the world of aviation.
The total aircraft fleet in the Nigerian aviation industry by about six major airlines put together is less than 70; a situation that boldly advertises the precarious airline business in the country.
We have a situation in Nigeria today where we have too many airlines that are too small, and their market is fragmented. None of the airlines has a critical mass, in terms of fleet or route network to become effective and to make money.
Fleet depletion has seen considerable reduction in the number of aircraft acquisition by many of the operators.
Aero Contractors, which had over seven airplanes with many helicopters, now operates about three B737-500 aircraft.
Dana, on the other hand, has about five airplanes. Azman has about four airplanes. Air Peace has over 18 aircraft and is now dominating the Nigerian sky.
Cumulatively, scheduled airlines in Nigeria have less than 40 airplanes in service, underscoring the shortage of equipment for a market of over 180 million people.
The wrong use of equipment has equally affected many carriers who have their aircraft grounded because of huge costs of maintaining their Boeing airplanes.
With the skyrocketing cost of aviation fuel, airlines are said to be spending more money on operation cost and may not save money to pay for high maintenance checks, such as C-Checks, which could cost as much as $600,000 or more.
The aviation industry in Nigeria is still crawling and not where it is supposed to be.
The core investors here, a lot of them have experiences from oil and gas where things are done in particular ways. When there is a standard operating procedure that is what you get. What Nigeria needs to create is a best practice company, a place where people want to walk in and invest.
The Nigerian aviation sector is very vibrant. There are many airlines, which is a good thing in a way, but the problem is that none of them is really profitable. Not a few believe that Nigerian airlines need to work together. They can compete for example on Lagos-Abuja or Abuja-Port Harcourt. They can work together on training, on maintenance, on spares pooling, on spare parts purchasing.
They can still compete and collaborate. More importantly, many want to see Nigerian airlines come together.
Ego is a big factor for the operators. It is a negative factor in the airline industry in Nigeria, pulling the sector back. If you look around the world, British Airways is coming to Nigeria. Collectively within the IAG Group, they have about – 600 plus aircraft. Delta Air Lines, over 600 plus aircraft. Or the Emirates, one can imagine huge planes. And yet, we have the market in terms of passengers.
Everybody wants to come to Nigeria. They look at the market as one of the biggest in Africa and the most populous market in the continent. Because of that, foreign airline fill their aircraft probably from the front because Nigerians like to travel in style and can afford it. It is a strange market where the aircraft fills from the front. The first class, the business class and the economy are filled up.
Most of the foreign carriers do not get that in South Africa or in Ethiopia or Kenya. The aircraft tends to fill from the back, but Nigeria, it is from the front. That means that the premium, the ticket yield is very high, and it can be profitable. And of course, the load factor in Nigeria is unusually high, compare to the rest of Africa.
It is good to see Nigerian carriers work together. They need to codeshare. It is quite a surprise and a disappointment that no airline in Nigeria is code-sharing. For example, if a flight is delayed on airline A, you can quickly send your passengers to airline B if you have interline agreement and codeshare. It is what they do in the modern world and we need to do it in Nigeria.
Over the years, many Nigerian carriers have collapsed while those that are in operation are going through excruciating pain. People talk about airlines that airlines are failing. It is because the airlines are not built in a way that they will create best practice company.
Speaking to New Telegraph, an airline operator who preferred anonymity, said the industry has to change, stressing, “big business is what you need to make this industry grow.”
His words, “When these big businesses come, what support do they get? Somebody is here buying more aircraft; everybody is saying he got the money from somewhere. When they put big money into the banks, who says where they got the money from and the banks are growing”.
“If this industry is going to grow, it is not with three aircraft. It is going to grow when big people come in. The three or four aircraft can be there. You go on a Delta aircraft. Some of the flights, they will tell you they are operated by ABC airline. May be ABC airline has only one aircraft but if you want to do the marketing of Delta, the reach of Delta, the operational support of Delta, it will cost you money”.
“What are we doing in Nigeria? We have airlines that are destroying wealth. If am going to Enugu once a day and I have an office in Enugu, I must pay the salary, pay the rent and four airlines are going to Enugu carrying 20 passengers each, it is destruction of wealth. The industry has to be shaped. As service providers, we will look at how to bring in efficiency to the business so that it can grow. Let the industry transform and I can see.
“When someone plans to bring in a 100 aircraft and we pray they bring it in and we will begin to see this industry go the way it should be. We need those numbers and when those numbers come, the type of consultants they will need, the kind of employment they will generate are humongous and will shape this industry and it will percolate. Even if it is somebody buying soap alone for 100 aircraft, it is different from someone bringing in 20 aircraft. We need those numbers.”
Generally, the airline business is a business in which long term funds are needed but the funds available around in this neighbourhood are short-term funds. So, you find the airlines using short term funds to address long-term business. It will always result into problem.
Despite Ethiopian crash, air travel safer in Africa
Africa is usually seen as a continent with huge risk but indicators suggest otherwise when it comes aviation. Despite challenges, the region ranks higher in aviation safety, writes WOLE SHADARE
Aviation safety in Africa continues to be a central concern for governments and aviation industry stakeholders, although the situation has been improving in recent years.
Until the recent Ethiopian Airlines accident, African airlines had gone two years without any jet hull losses or fatalities.
This demonstrates progress after decades of poor safety records in some African countries, which could be attributed to lax regulatory oversight, obsolete infrastructure, aging and poorly maintained fleets and inadequate technical training of aviation personnel.
Airlines raise the bar
According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), only 24 African states—out of about 104 states around the world—currently have a critical elements implementation score of 60 percent or above in the International Civil Aviation Organisation’s Universal Safety Oversight Audit Programme.
This program is considered the global benchmark in assessing the oversight capabilities of government entities charged with regulating civil aviation. Cape Verde, South Africa, Mauritania, Togo and Egypt rank are the top five African countries in terms of operational safety according to this metric, while countries such as Djibouti, the Central African Republic, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia and Sao Tome and Principe score below 25 percent on implementation of the critical elements.
There has been a very positive trend with regard to many of the larger African flag carriers, such as Ethiopian Airlines, South African Airways, Kenya Airways, Air Mauritius, EgyptAir and Royal Air Maroc.
These airlines strive to maintain excellent safety records that are on par with global industry standards, and they have great reputations among the traveling public in Africa.
Smaller carriers, such as African World Airlines in Ghana and Air Peace in Nigeria, have also made strides in recent years, as demonstrated by their successes in the IATA’s industry-benchmark Operational Safety Audit.
In 2018, African carriers that successfully completed this process averaged only 1.18 accidents per million flights, while other African carriers’ average accident rate was 9.79, according to the IATA. The global average accident rate was 1.35, which roughly equates to one accident for every 740,000 flights.
Increased safety compliance
Experts are crediting increased compliance with global aviation standards, better regulation and younger fleets for the improvement.
From less than three per cent of global passenger air traffic but more than two-thirds of fatalities just over two decades ago, Africa entered new territory when it reported zero deaths attributable to a commercial jet aircraft accident in 2016. The region maintained the record with no fatalities in 2017 as well.
African Jet aircraft losses first fell from an average of 2.21 hull losses between 2012 and 2015, to zero in 2016.
That compared with 0.18 for the Asia Pacific, 013 for Europe, 0.92 for the Commonwealth of Independent States (former Soviet Union republics) and 0.41 for Latin America and the Caribbean in 2017.
While 556 people died in 15 fatal commercial airline accidents during 2018, data for the first half of the year shows that there was no fatal jet accident in the region. The only fatal accidents involved small propeller driven aircraft in which 14 people died.
One such accident was the FlySax Cessna 208 Grand Caravan that crashed into a ridge in Kenya’s Aberdare mountains killing eight passengers and two crew on June 5 and a June 24 Let410 cargo charter operated by Eagle Air Guinea in which four people died.
Africa, Ethiopia confront challenges
Africa and Ethiopian Airlines are dealing with its biggest challenge in years following the crash on March 2019 of Nairobi-bound Flight 302 soon after take-off in Addis Ababa. All 157 people on-board were killed.
The crash raised serious questions about the safety of the Boeing 737 Max jet, which was involved in another fatal accident last year in Indonesia. For all the focus on the crash in Ethiopia, major African carriers and civil aviation entities have made significant strides in improving their safety records in recent years.
Commenting on Africa’s high safety record in relation with Ethiopian Airlines accident, Director-General of IATA, Alexandre de Juniac said in the case of Ethiopian Airways, it was not the first reaction.
“I have heard blames on the aircraft system. I have heard blames on Ethiopian. On my point of view, you find it difficult to say anything on that until after investigation is concluded.”
The IATA DG disclosed that both ICAO and IATA work in partnership in doing workshops, training, initiatives to help the authorities and airport operators for airlines to lift up the safety standards.
“We have all that relates to airlines in IASA, IASAGO. By implementing the standards of IOSA, we say automatically we uplift compliance with ICAO recommended standards. They go hand-in-hand and ICAO has accepted the IOSA as standards to uplift countries’ standards to where they should be.”
Similarly, IATA’s African envoy for aero-political affairs, Dr. Raphael Kuuchi said, “A number of factors account for the significant improvements in safety achieved by Africa in recent times.”
Kuuchu explained that following the Abuja Declaration in 2012, there has been effort among key players and stakeholders in the industry to improve aviation safety.
The IATA, the Civil Air Navigation Services organisation, AFRAA and the AU-based African Civil Aviation Commission have pooled technical, financial and material resources to help African states, regulators and airlines to tackle aviation safety.
Building safety capacity
To this end, capacity building courses as well as safety gap analyses were conducted at different points in Africa while states were continuously pushed to get their airlines to adopt the IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA].
Besides more airlines signing up for IOSA certification, African states invested in infrastructure and committed resources to addressing safety gaps that have been identified through ICAO safety audits.
Also, concerned about the likelihood of unsafe aircraft entering its territory, the European Union introduced its AU Safety List in the early 2000s on which airlines deemed unsafe were banned from operating in the EU. The list was dominated by African airlines with the DRC and Nigeria taking the lead. This forced African governments and airlines to invest in air safety and airlines to buy newer aircraft.
Availability of new aircraft types that fit the thin African routes better has encouraged African airlines to transit from aged to new equipment.
According to the Aviation Safety Network, the average age of the African airline fleet is less than 20 years, compared with the high 30s two decades ago.
“New aircraft have better reliability and operational efficiencies. On average, they are less susceptible to technical failures than ageing aircraft,” Kuuchi added.
It is important for developed nations with stronger economic resources and interests in African aviation to assist African countries in modernizing their regulatory frameworks around aviation safety.
Incident concealment: Time bomb for Nigeria’s aviation
The occurrence of many aviation safety infractions give cause for concern. WOLE SHADARE writes that the aviation regulatory and the accident investigative bodies need to be resolute on safety matters
Timely reporting of hazards, incidents or accidents is seen as an essential activity of aviation safety and risk management. One can safely say that airlines are preparing the ground for disaster if they conceal or fail to report hazards or safety related issues.
Without an effective hazard/safety reporting culture, there is no way that any aviation service provider can demonstrate continuous improvement to their aviation safety management system (SMS).
The foregoing points to the perceived rift between the Accident Investigation [AIB], Air Peace and the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority [NCAA] over alleged concealment of accident/incident reports that generated furore in the country’ aviation industry.
Aside concealment of accident/ incident reports to the relevant aviation authorities, airlines pilots and crew are known to have flown or still fly with expired licence and health records.
They have been caught many times with expired Airline Operator Certificate [AOC] certificates; a situation that put the lives of people in jeopardy.
The accident investigative body has taken a swipe at Nigeria’s biggest carrier for allegedly not notifying it at the appropriate time, explaining in a statement it made available to the media that on June 5, 2019, the Bureau received notification about a serious incident involving a Boeing 737-300 aircraft with Registration Marks 5N-BUK, belonging to Air Peace Limited from a passenger-on-board.
Commissioner, AIB, Akin Olateru stated that the said incident occurred on May 15, 2019, while the aircraft was on approach to Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos from Port Harcourt.
The aircraft was said to have experienced a hard landing, as it touched down on the runway (18R). Upon receipt of the notification, he noted that the Bureau visited Air Peace Limited office and confirmed the said occurrence, adding that the agency further conducted a damage assessment on the aircraft, which revealed that the air-craft made contact on the runway with the starboard engine cowling as obvious from various scrapes, scratches and dents, an evidence of tyre scouring on the sidewalls of the No. 4 tyre.
There was also visible damage to the right-hand engine compressor blades.
Of utmost concern is the fact that till date, the AIB has received no notification of the incident: three weeks after the date of occurrence, contrary to ICAO Annex 13, which guides the operations of aircraft accident investigation procedures.
Rather, the Bureau further to the occurrence, received a submission of a ‘Mandatory Occurrence Report’ (MOR) subsequently filed at the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), on June 7, 2019, which filing was as a direct result of the Bureau’s visit to Air Peace office on the 6th day of June 2019.”
Similarly, Olateru stated that in recent times, an aircraft belonging to Air Peace Limited was also involved in a serious incident, hinting that the airline wilfully failed to comply with the provisions of the Bureau’s regulations.
General Manager, Public Affairs of AIB, Mr. Tunji Oketunbi, said the airline’s Accountable Manager and Chief Pilot at the material time, were duly warned by the Bureau for non-compliance with the regulations.
He said based on all the foregoing, it was obvious that Air Peace Management lacks the full understanding of the statutory mandates, functions and procedures of the bureau
The airline has stoutly denied that it concealed serious incident information from the AIB, describing it as incorrect.
Chairman of the airline, Mr. Allen Onyema told New Telegraph that when the incident happened, the airline reported to the regulatory agency, NCAA and also wrote to Boeing and the manufacturer of the aircraft’s engine, CFM International.
“When the incident occurred, we reported it to NCAA,” he insisted. “We followed the aircraft manual, which guided us on what to do when such incident occurred. We wrote to Boeing, the aircraft manufacturer and also wrote to the engine manufacturer, CFM International. We also grounded the aircraft.
“We always report any incident to NCAA and, sometimes, you may not know what to report to AIB because the NCAA is the regulatory authority and the Bureau is in charge of accident investigation.
“So when incident like hard landing happens and you inform NCAA, we feel we have followed the procedure. Boeing has written back to us and has told us what to do, according to the procedure. Currently, inspection is being carried out on the aircraft,”
Delta Airlines example
AIB has come out to say it does not have any personal issues with Air Peace, saying it was only carrying out its functions as stipulated by law. The agency maintained that ignorance of the law and provision under, which it acted was not enough for the airline to cry blue murder.
Olateru cited similar incident with United States airline, Delta Airlines that apologised to AIB February last year over the airline’s failure to notify the government agency of the emergency landing involving its Airbus 330-200 aircraft. He said the airline should simply have apologised rather than whip up, ‘unnecessary sentiments.’
It would be recalled that Atlanta bound Delta Flight 55, which departed Lagos Tuesday night returned several minutes later to Murtala Muhammed International Airport following an issue with one of the Airbus 330-200’s two engines.
The Nigerian accident investigation body had frowned at the American carrier’s failure to notify it of the serious incident involving its aircraft in line with Nigerian air safety regulations and international practice.
The airline was believed to have notified the United States National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) of the occurrence immediately in line with the US laws.
Nigeria, as the state of occurrence under the International Civil Aviation organisation (ICAO) Annex 13 is responsible for investigating any aircraft occurrences within her airspace. The State of registry of the aircraft and the airline may serve as observers.
A team of the airline officials including the technical crew of the flight and the airlines Lagos Airport Station, Miss Shannon Masters, Manager, Air Safety Investigation expressed the airline’s regret for the oversight, stressing that it was not intentional.
Said Masters: ‘We sincerely apologised for the error and we promise to cooperate with AIB in the investigation of this occurrence.”
Former Commandant, Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos, Group Capt. John Ojikutu said: “I have read the report. The conducts of the pilots and the operator is beyond the violations of those pilots and their operators who were reported to have been flying with expired medical license. To even hear that the operator tampered with the aircraft’s CVR, is a criminal offence and will be surprised if the sanctions would be anything less than suspension of the airline AOC.”
The objective of mandatory occurrence reporting is to prevent safety occurrences, such as accidents and incidents, not to attribute blame or liability if they happen. The person filing a safety report needs to have the strong assurance from the regulatory authority and the employer that prosecution or punitive actions such as suspension of licence will not be sought unless the unsafe act is deliberately committed or gross negligence is demonstrated.
Europe’s congested airspace, Africa’s empty skies
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) is worried about congested European airspace, which is likely to cost airlines 35 years in delayed time by 2025. It is an irony that while airspace in Europe is congested, Africa’s airspace is virtually empty due to SAATM low implementation. WOLE SHADARE writes
The air transport network plays an important role in today’s globalized society. The connectivity it generates is a key element for the competitive position of European countries, regions and cities. It drives consumer and wider economic benefits.
A superior connectivity performance minimizes travel costs for passengers, businesses and shippers. Aviation facilitates global contacts, mobility and trade. It stimulates productivity, trade, Research and Development (R&D) and foreign direct investment (FDI).
In addition, the aviation industry is a major industry in its own right, supporting about 12 million jobs and 4.1 percent of Gross Domestic (GDP) in Europe.
Europe is in a strong position in terms of connectivity. Since the start of liberalization of the European air transport market about 25 years ago, consumers have benefitted from connectivity growth within Europe as well as to/from other world regions.
These gains include more directly and indirectly served destinations, higher frequencies, shorter travel times and lower fares. The connectivity gains have substantially reduced consumer’s costs to get from A to B and induced significant consumer welfare benefits, as well as gains for the wider economy. But there are challenges to deal with if these gains are to continue.
Sufficient capacity both in the air and on the ground and an efficiently organized airspace are key in this respect.
However, the European air transport system is not operating at its optimum level. Flight trajectories are longer than needed. On average, flights in European airspace are 3 per cent longer than the great circle distance between origin and destination airport.
Airspace inefficiencies and capacity bottlenecks cause delays of around 10 minutes per flight. In contrast to the US, which has just one single Air Navigation Service Provider (ANSP), Europe has 38 ANSPs to handle approximately the same geographical area, resulting in higher than needed costs of Air Navigation Service Provision for airlines and passengers.
Examples of these costs are higher ANSP user charges and longer than needed flight trajectories, with associated fuel burn and environmental burden. But the much-needed modernization of European airspace is progressing slowly and is lagging behind the targets set. Furthermore, airport capacity is expected to fall short of future demand growth.
The continued congestion of the airspace is a source of worry to the clearing house for airlines. The Director-General of IATA, Alexandre de Juniac had during an interview at the just concluded IATA 75th Annual General Meeting in Seoul, South Korea stated that that compiled minutes of delay runs into about 36 years if the situation continues till 2025.
Just like the bottlenecks faced by Africa to have a unified single African airspace, which has lingered for about 20 years with slow implementation of Yamoussoukro Declaration, Europe seems to be facing a more intriguing decision to have single European airspace. This has even lingered more than the much talked about Yamoussoukro Decision. That is where the comparison ends. While Europe has gone to develop its air transport sector albeit with some bottlenecks, Africa is still confused on what to do.
While on one hand they support Single African Air Transport Market [SAATM], on the other hand, they are very reluctant to open their airspace as the still consider Bilateral Air Services Agreement [BASA] far and above a policy that would make them prosperous and face competition if they are to survive in the highly competitive aviation industry.
The IATA chief lamented that what is happening in Europe is similar to those of Yamoussoukro Declaration, which has been there 20 years ago.
His words, ‘Firstly, it is political reason. You are touching on a subject that has sovereignty, economic reasons because some of the incumbent airlines owned by governments want to protect their airspace and their operators against what they perceive as threatening competition.
“They also think that it will kill any initiative of national carrier and the reasons they don’t want to open their borders. It is all about political control, sovereignty issues. It is protection, political issue.”
Getting air traffic to and through a country gives a proven boost to trade, tourism and other economic activity. Countries and cities that have managed to do this have been handsomely rewarded. While Africa’s geography gives it the potential to become a hub for flights from Australia to the Americas, from China to South America, and many other routes, that is no more than a threshold advantage. Getting airlines to fly to a city rests on issues that Africa still struggle with – not just inadequate infrastructure, but also a scarcity of Africa-based international airlines, poor route management, insecurity and a failure to generate tourist interest.
Many African nations lack national carriers and some of the international airlines that do exist are loss-makers – South African Airways is one example. People obviously cannot fly to or through a country if there are no airlines to take them there. Furthermore, internal connections between many African cities are poor or non-existent.
We regularly talk about the need to develop a ‘United Africa’ to enable air transport to grow to its full potential and the need for enhanced connectivity and cooperation within the Continent.
Part of the reason for Africa’s under-served status is that many African countries have continued to restrict their air services markets to protect the share held by state-owned air carriers. This practice originated in the early 1960s when many newly-independent African states created national airlines, in part, to assert their status as nations.
It has been a long journey with lots of talking but very little action, albeit there has been limited liberalisation in certain regional economic blocs and between certain markets. Now, the industry in Africa appears to better understand the economic benefits of a more liberal regime and moving from a general protective stance of state interests. We are now the closest we have ever been to allowing Africa to fulfil its aviation potential.
Africa covers over 30 million square kilometers and is home to more than a billion people. Due to its challenging terrain, air transport is often the best—sometimes the only—way to connect the continent. Africa needs safe, efficient and affordable air transport links to make the most of its people and resources.
Ibom Air begins commercial flight today
Ibom Air, the Akwa Ibom State owned airline will commence full commercial flights today, Friday 7th June 2019.
Ibom Air managed and operated by Ibom Air Company Limited is one of the signature projects of Governor Udom Emmanuel’s first term, launched amidst pomp and pageantry on February 20th with three aircrafts on its fleet.
A release by the Chief Press Secretary to the governor, Mr. Ekerette Udoh, says the airline has met all regulatory conditions and requirements and has been certified fit to commence commercial operations.
With this development, Governor Emmanuel’s avowed determination to open the three gateways to industrialization-land, sea and air is on course, the release adds.
The release disclosed that the airline will operate regular daily flights to Lagos and Abuja.
“Aircrafts in the Ibom Air fleet (Bombardier CRJ 900) have the distinction of being relatively new, all three, under 10 years old.”
However, the commencement of the commercial operations by Ibom Air has been celebrated by Akwa Ibomites and Nigerians as a testament to the visionary leadership of Governor Udom Emmanuel, who is determined to break conventional wisdom concerning things long thought to be impossible to achieve, the release adds.
The crazy economics of inflight Wi-Fi
Forget champagne, fully flat beds and on-board showers. WOLE SHADARE writes that for airlines’ travellers, the must-have facility these days is WiFi
At over 37, 000 feet above sea level, air passengers can make video calls, send Short Messaging System(SMS) and be in contact with their loved ones and continue with their works as if they are in their homes or offices.
That is the power of technology, which was a rarity many years ago, as airlines are taking advantage of technology to offer great services to their passengers especially for long haul passenger.
Travelling long distances across different time zones can become a big torture, tiring and sickening. So, many passengers pay with their credit cards to surf the Internet and be in touch while they are in the air.
Most gulf carriers like Emirates, Qatar, Etihad, United States airlines and others are daily developing Internet technology. For Emirates, the airline offers 20 free MB to its economy passengers, which they expect passengers to exhaust within two hours when they log in. They are allowed to pay between $9 and $24 for few hours and duration of the flight.
On an American or Delta plane you could wind up paying $10 to $20 to surf for the duration of your flight. JetBlue offers complementary Internet access to all of its passengers. For most major airlines, Internet is a revenue generator.
An airline expert told New Telegraph that passengers go for airlines that provide such facilities especially if the journey is more than six hours or one that lasts for between 10 and 16 hours. It keeps them busy and helps them to run down the time of sitting in a position for so long. Long distance journeys can be very boring even with inflight entertainment facilities.
It would be recalled that from humble beginnings, inflight connectivity has certainly taken off in recent years. With more than 80 airlines worldwide now offering wifi services to passengers, nearly half of all the miles being travelled by air each year have the option of inflight wifi.
From real-time access to news and weather, to being able to browse the web, stay in touch with family, or catch up on email, the benefits to passengers of on-board Internet are clear. So much so that today, 94 per cent of air travellers believe inflight Internet enhances their travel experience and 30 percent check if wifi is available before booking.
For the airlines, however, it’s not as simple as just offering connectivity any more. Back on the ground, the world of public wifi has rapidly evolved and become increasingly commoditized, so businesses have looked to both monetize and differentiate their offering from the competition.
Customers can increasingly walk into their favourite café or hotel and access the wifi network using a branded application, where they will also see promotions and marketing for additional products or services. Not only are customers avoiding the frustrating login screens and confusion around choosing a network, they’re getting a more personalized experience and incentives to spend more money as a result.
Making a wifi strategy more passenger-centric is also becoming increasingly important from a business model perspective.
The CEO of Delta Air Lines recently announced aspirations to make on-board Internet free to passengers across the Delta fleet, a move that could set off a domino effect across the industry.
This highlight that now is the time for airlines to put in place a differentiated wifi service that not only delivers for the customer, but can provide a revenue stream in the future.
By tightly integrating wifi within the airline’s apps and entertainment systems, it becomes a means to offer passengers additional, paid-for services – from inflight food and personalized entertainment, to last-minute deals at their destination or even loyalty credit cards.
Win-win for airlines
It’s clear that the inflight connectivity landscape is evolving – it’s no longer just about making sure it is available on board most flights, but also about making the customer experience great too. For airlines, keeping customers within a more tightly controlled airline-branded ecosystem is an obvious way to differentiate from the competition and serve up additional, complementary services.
This has the double benefit of a better passenger experience and a better way to monetize each seat – two things that are going to be increasingly important in a future where free wifi might not just be available in the hotel and café at the airport, but on the flight home as well.
Though frequent fliers have made their pleas to the airlines to offer on-board Internet, when the service is available it isn’t always up to par with the tech-savvy traveller’s needs…
Even though an increasing amount of airlines like Finnair, Srilankan Airlines, Kuwait Airways, TAAG Angola Airlines, and WestJet have announced that they’ll soon be implementing WiFi, there’s still a long way to go when it comes to the quality of the service, as exorbitant pricing and slow speeds that would make even a snail yawn are deterring fliers from considering purchasing Internet aboard.
Airlines that offer inflight WiFi and/or GSM Internet access are Aer Lingus, Aeroflot, AirAsia, Air Canada, Air China, Air Europa, Air France, Air Tran, Alaska Airlines, Alitalia, All Nippon Airways, American Airlines and ANA. Others are British Airways, Cebu Pacific Air, China Eastern Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Egypt Air, Emirates, Etihad, EVA Air, Finnair, Geruda Indonesia, United, Turkish Airlines.
Also included are GOL Linhas Aereas, Inteligente, Gulf Air, Hong Kong Airlines, Iberia, Iceland Air, JAL, Jetblue, Lufthansa, Libyan Airlines, Malindoair, Mango Airlines, Nok Air, Norwegian, Oman Air and Philipine Airlines. Qatar Airways, Ryannair, SAS, SaudiArabian Airlines, Singapore Airlines, SouthWest Airlines, TAM, Tap Portugal, US Airways, West Jet, Vietnam Airlines and Vueling also made the list.
The London School of Economics has made a strong business case for the future of Inflight Connectivity (IFC), predicting a market worth $130 billion by 2035, and contribution of $30 billion to airline revenue.
By world region, the largest market will be in Asia Pacific, reaching $10.3 billion in revenue by 2035, with Europe and Russia in second place at $8.2 billion and North America, which took the lead in the initial introduction of IFC inflight as a common service, in third place at $7.6 billion by 2035.
Consumers expect in-flight Wi-Fi to offer the same browsing experience in the air, as they have at home or at their favorite hotel. Like in the hospitality industry, airlines see the connectivity experience as a differentiator that customers care about and that can help increase ancillary revenues from added services and purchases.
Carrier promises quality services
One of Europe’s mega airlines, Lufthansa German Airlines, has promised to continue the provision of quality and efficient services to its passengers.
This is coming as the carrier relocated its Nigerian head office in Lagos from Victoria Island to Ikoyi, according to a statement from the airline.
The German Airline, which was formerly located at Plot PC 30, Churchgate Street, 2nd Floor, Churchgate Towers, Victoria Island, now operates from the modern state-of-the-art British American Tobacco Building on Olumegbon Road, Off Alfred Rewane Road in Ikoyi poised to offer unrivalled customer experience while providing better proximity to customers.
Speaking on the development during a special event hosting top clients and partners at the new office last week, Lufthansa Group General Manager Sales, Nigeria and Equatorial Guinea, Adenike Macaulay, reiterated the airline’s commitment to quality and efficient service.
“We have been operating in Nigeria since 1962 and have become renowned for our quality and efficient services, which our customers have come to expect. I am assuring our clients and partners that we will continue to uphold that fine tradition here at our new office which is open to all,” she said.
Macaulay said the event was an opportunity for the airline to bond and interact with its clients and partners, as well as foster networking opportunities amongst those present. She expressed pride at the cordial relationship between the airline and its stakeholders, particularly its trade partners, since its debut in the country, noting that such support has helped the airline to deliver an excellent level of service to her customers.
Mr. Bismarck Rewane, MD/CEO Financial Derivatives Company Limited, one of the airline’s long-standing passengers and corporate clients, commended the airline for its diligence, and efficiency.
“I have been flying Lufthansa for over 20 years and my experience has been pleasant and delightful. It is a pleasure to visit Lufthansa in the new ambience and modern office in the up-market Ikoyi location. Lufthansa is an airline that is really committed to the Nigerian route, and in my mind remains a classy and super well deserving airline,” he said.
First class travel booms in Nigeria amid global decline
First Class travel is disappearing at a worrying rate. But in Nigeria, it is gaining strength, further typifying the craze by wealthy Nigerians to force carriers to retain the status symbol. In other climes, many travellers are shifting to Business Class, writes WOLE SHADARE The changing times If you’re keen to fly first class, good luck in finding a seat. Across the board, first class has been steadily disappearing from commercial jets. In the long haul market, the majority of the big names have substantially reduced the number of first class seats on board, often by several hundred thousand. But the situation is different on the Nigerian market where majority of super rich Nigerians prefer to travel in class. They prefer First Class travel to match their status. These super rich are in government, banking sector, aviation, academia, oil and gas and other sectors of the economy. Foreign airlines see Nigeria as a very big market for premium travel. The revenue they rake in from First Class and Business are enough to sustain their operations even without the economic travel revenue. Majority are of the opinion that foreign airlines or any other airline would break even and remain profitable if they get the First and Business class seats filled without passengers in the economy class cabin. Huge load factor Foreign airlines operating into Nigeria have an average of 80 per cent load factor in their premium cabin. For this reason, the carriers keep expanding and marketing these premium cabins because they know that Nigeria would pay any amount to travel in first class. The only time there was a lull in First/Business class was during the recession crisis three years ago. Nigerian aviation industry, which suffered from relatively low patronage due largely to softer demand in the wake of the recession the country entered into, is picking up very fast. In the height of the recession, personal travels fell drastically, as average purchasing power dropped abysmally vis-a-vis rising cost of tickets. However, business travel continued to drive air passenger traffic across the country. Analysts adduced high operational costs as cause of the increased ticket fares, saying that aviation fuel accounts for about 40 percent of operational costs. Industry sources indicate that the price of aviation fuel currently stands at N265/l. British carrier, British Airways has consistently operated super jumbo B747-400 to Lagos from London. The aircraft type helps the airline to maximise its hold on the premium class market in Nigeria. Most Nigerians love to fly in B747 because of the space it offers customers. It is so built in a way that makes them feel like they are in their homes. Despite the fact that the B747 is considered as fuel guzzler because of its four engines and other avionics, the airline has continued to operate it. The writer, who recently flew on BA’s B747, KLM’s A330, Air France’s A330 and Virgin Atlantic’s A330 to London, Amsterdam and Toulouse respectively, observed that the First/Business Class cabins were virtually filled up mostly by Nigeria’s super rich. The same happens in the premium cabins Emirates, Delta, Qatar, Etihad, Ethiopian Airlines, Turkish, among other big airlines. Not a few felt that Nigeria would have floated her own airline to take huge advantage of this premium class market or aviation as a whole. The country’s flag carrier airlines are not serious and have not shown any seriousness to tap into the huge aviation market. That may have lent credence to the support for the Federal Government to float a national carrier amid opposition from domestic airlines that had shown on several occasions that they are weak, small and fragmented to compete with the least airline operating into Nigeria. The sector is daily confronted with their agitation for one favour or the order from government forgetting that they need to show seriousness and commitment on how to do business with sound corporate governance, which they lack. Gradual disappearance In other climes across the board, first class has been steadily disappearing from commercial jets. In the long haul market, majority of the big names have substantially reduced the number of first class seats on board, often by several hundred thousand. The premium market disrupted itself when BA launched a lie flat seat in – shock horror – the business class cabin. This was around the year 2000 and since then pretty much every other major carrier has followed suit. This has made business class much more attractive, but at the same time, has devalued the offering of First. For example, British Airways in 2008 had around 560,000 first class seats across its fleet. By 2018, it had almost 100,000 less. Delta, in 2008, offered almost 400,000 first class seats. Now, they have just over 200,000. For United, 10 years ago, there were around 380,000 first class seats. Today, that number is around 180,000. Singapore, although less marked, the past decade has seen first class reduce from 150,000 to just over 90,000. Of course, there’s always an exception to the rule, and in this cas, it’s Emirates. In 2018, the Dubaibased carrier had around 310,000 first class seats available. Last year, this number had grown to over 600,000. Stimulating change If the demand for first class were there, airlines would provide it. So, it’s the passengers who are stimulating this change. Aren’t they demanding first class because the product is just not good anymore? A travel expert who pleaded anonymity said not at all, adding, “In fact, first class today is far better than anything we saw 10 years ago. Emirates’ A380 jumbos come complete with inflight showers, not to mention bars and lounges for the most privileged of passengers.” Maybe there aren’t enough wealthy people? But that’s not true either. According to Forbes, the stock of billionaires in the world has doubled to more than 2,100 in the past 10 years alone. Luxury travel is booming; five star hotels and resorts in Asia are expected to increase by over 150 per cent in the next 10 years. Despite these, the capacity for first class around the world has reduced substantially. And predictions for the future of first class don’t bode well. The verdict Analysts are predicting that, in less than 10 years, there won’t really be a first class any more. In the US, it’s already an endangered specie. Ten years ago, almost all of the hundreds of long haul aircraft would have had a first class cabin on board. Now, there are only around 20. Elsewhere, Air New Zealand and Turkish Airlines have scrapped first class completely and even British Airways, once the most well-known purveyor of luxury travel, have eliminated first class from their newest aircraft. Last line But if first class does disappear, won’t it present airlines with something of a problem? Emirates claim that first and business class make up around 12 per cent of the seats on their flights, but that they generate around 40 per cent of the revenue.
Suntai’s flight of doom as regulator’s albatross
The Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB)’s report of the accident involving late former Governor of Taraba State, Danbaba Suntai, brings to the fore the weak regulatory oversight of Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), writes WOLE SHADARE
The long wait
It took seven years for Nigerians and all those associated with aviation whether in Nigeria or elsewhere to know exactly the circumstance that led to the crash of ex-governor of Taraba State, Danbaba Suntai’s Cessna 172 aircraft.
When the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) decided to release the damning report and five others that had remained on the shelf for many years, Suntai’s decision to operate an aircraft he was not rated on, amounted to a suicide.
The flaws, deception
Suntai’s case exposes the flouting of aviation regulations by pilots, especially those on Private Pilot Licence (PPL). It also brings to question the role of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) to guarantee safety at all times.
Agreed that PPL allows one to fly himself, which Suntai did, but equipment that he flew, according to the AIB report, had no documentation with the aviation regulatory body. If it had no documentation, how come it was allowed to operate?
The airplane was even granted permission to take-off and land, possibly because Suntai was a governor and must be accorded all the ‘courtesies’ due a governor even when he constituted danger to himself and other users of the airspace.
According to the report released by AIB’s Commissioner, Akin Olateru, an aircraft engineer, the aircraft had no record of registration with NCAA and had no record with any aircraft maintenance organisations, an indication that the airplane could have been ‘smuggled’ into the country without certification by the aviation regulatory body.
The late governor obtained a Private Pilot License (PPL] but was not type-rated on the aircraft he was flying.
Suntai’s decision to operate a Visual Flight Rule (VFR) after sunset, coupled with inadequate oversight by the aviation regulatory authority, (NCAA), conspired to cause the accident.
He suffered brain injury after the crash and went through rehabilitation at home after a long medical stay abroad before he died in June 2017.
The damning report further stated that the pilot was not qualified to fly Cessna 172 and had total logged flying hours of 58 hours and 40 minutes, just as the pilot had no relevant endorsement to fly the aircraft type.
He was said to have reported an incorrect estimated time of arrival (ETA at Yola as 10; 01 UTC as against the time 17: 19 UTC). The report equally reported the number of persons on board as six to the control tower as against four actual persons found after the accident.
According to the report, “the control tower was notified about the flight departure by phone call from Jalingo after the aircraft was airborne. AIB was unable to interview the pilot as he was flown out of the country for further medical treatment.”
It could be conveniently said that pilot (Suntai) engaged in a violation of controlled airspace (VCA). This occurs when a pilot enters controlled airspace without a clearance occasioned by the inaccurate information he was said to have given air traffic controllers when they sought to know his position. Unauthorised aircraft in controlled airspace present a potential collision threat to other aircraft.
It is a section of airspace surrounding an airport with a tower, and/or airspace up to a certain altitude overlying Nigeria. This airspace may or may not be radar monitored. The controller needs to be aware of all aircraft within his/her section of controlled airspace so as to provide a complete traffic service. Pilots are required to request a clearance before entering the airspace.
It is a known fact in many places including Nigeria that many pilots who do not intend to enter controlled airspace do not apply sufficient track tolerance when tracking near a controlled airspace boundary. Increased track tolerances by such pilots would help to limit the consequences of navigation errors.
A significant minority of incidents were those where pilots entered controlled airspace as intended but failed to obtain a clearance before doing so. While most of these pilots requested a clearance, it was apparent that many of them were not allowing sufficient time to obtain a clearance as they approach the airspace boundary.
Former Commandant, Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos, Group Capt. John Ojikutu (rtd) described the action as criminal.
“I just read the report of the Suntai plane crash; is that still one accident when you should not apportion blame,” he quipped. “You can imagine if he had run into another flight with an unlicensed aircraft that he was not qualified to fly.”
Ojikutu stated that the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) Annex 13, which stipulates: “Don’t apportion blame is minimum standard. Then, let us draw up a national standard.
“By the way, why has the NCAA been sanctioning airlines and pilots that breached regulations such as the pilot of FirstNation Airline and others with expired medical certificates? In a sane country, NCAA and the controller who cleared the aircraft would be in serious trouble by now.’
He said it was easy for them then to stop former Governor Rotimi Amaechi’s aircraft from taking off from Akure, Ondo State, about five years ago because of what he termed flimsy excuses that the airport was closed and the aircraft had no licence to fly commercially, stressing that nobody bothered to check the impunity and excesses of a pilot/governor.
Besides, he said that if the Suntai’s case were to be in the military, he would have been tried dead or alive for culpable negligence.
A test case
Not a few believed that it would have been a test case for NCAA to see if it would act beyond the lip service it pays to regulations by prosecuting Suntai for endangering safety of an aircraft and the occupants had he not died from injuries he sustained in the accident five years after.
This brings to fore a case of February 25, 2019, when a British private pilot was convicted for operating an illegal charter flight and a flight that was unsafe, following a trial in Manchester, England. He was convicted for acting as a pilot without holding an appropriate license and flying outside the flight manual limitations.
Robert Murgatroyd commenced a flight in a Piper Cherokee from Barton Aerodrome, near Manchester, to the Isle of Barra, Scotland, on September 9, 2017. He had taken payment of £500 from each of his three passengers, who were bird watchers hoping to see the American Redstart, which had not been seen for 30 years.
He was found to have been making a profit from the flight, rather than it being a cost-sharing flight as currently permitted under EASA regulations. Thus, he should have held a commercial license and the aircraft should have been included on an air operator certificate (AOC).
After departure in poor weather from a wet runway at the small general aviation airfield, the aircraft struggled to get airborne and crashed shortly afterward close to a major highway. The pilot suffered a broken nose, while the passengers also suffered minor injuries.
The CAA and Greater Manchester Police mounted a criminal investigation, separate from the UK AAIB’s accident inquiry. Investigators found that the Cherokee was 426 pounds over the mtow of 2,150 pounds.
Suntai’s case was a very serious incident that could have ended with fatalities. He and other occupants sustained serious injuries. It is hoped that the revelations in the report will deter other rich men and influential people in the society as well as pilots from ignoring regulations for selfish interests.
NCAA DG: AIB’s safety counsels, good for our processes
…says agencies’ll collaborate to improve safer skies
To enable the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) comply with the requirements of the Act and the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) regulations, the aviation regulatory body disclosed that it had constituted a team of inspectors from the different technical areas and specialties of airworthiness, flight operations, air navigation services, personnel licensing and aerodrome operations.
The Director General of NCAA, Capt. Muhtar Usman sais this in a statement made available to New Telegraph.
He disclosed that on receipt of the draft reports on serious incidents and accidents from the Bureau, the team reviewed the report in order to enhance its value, determine the necessity (whether to or not) to implement the safety recommendation and where required, develop safety actions to appropriately address the safety recommendations.
He assured that the NCAA was willing and ready to cooperate and continuously improve the existing partnership with the Bureau to ensure safe skies within Nigeria.
Besides, he said that the NCAA’s response is forwarded to the Director General for amendments and acceptability and thereafter to the Bureau. Several Final Reports issued by the AIB contain these safety actions by the NCAA.
Airlines, others yet to fully implement safety counsels
…as AIB, NCAA chiefs spar
Out of the 130 safety recommendations issued by the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB), 61 per cent of them have been fully implemented, eight partially implemented and 31 per cent yet to be fully implemented as at last year.
In all, AIB has now released a total of 46 accident reports and 178 safety recommendations in total since the inception of the agency in 2007.
These safety recommendations are said to be very important towards preventing re-occurrence of similar accidents or serious incidents and when adhered to can impact air safety positively, not only in Nigeria but also globally.
This was contained in AIB safety recommendation committee report of 2018 made available to New Telegraph.
The committee’s report is at variance with comments made by the Director-General of Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Capt Usman Muhtar that his agency and AIB’s quarterly meeting to review all safety recommendations and implementation status had not been held in the last two years.
Muktar said the quarterly meeting with AIB was initiated in 2016 and held with AIB and NCAA alternately hosting and was very productive.
“However, the meeting has not held for about two years now, though there are evidences of NCAA requesting for its recommencement,” he revealed.
According to him, in the last quarter of 2014, the then minister of aviation set up a Ministerial Committee on Nigerian Aviation Industry Aircraft Accident Reports Status (NAIAARS) with the Terms of Reference amongst which are: “To collate all Nigerian Aviation Industry aircraft accident reports from 2000 till date and determine the status of all reports and recommendations.”
A visibly angry Olateru said that Muhtar was economical with the truth, as he showed the members of NCAA that met in its last meeting a few months ago. The meetings, he said, produced a report detailing actions that led to the attainment of 61 per cent of the recommendations that were fully implemented.
In the 222-page report, the committee strongly recommends that the issue of funding of Nigeria Police Force Airwing should be addressed with urgency as the current lack of funds has hindered their capability in meeting critical safety standards.
It was observed that 27 engineers and 35 pilots were recently employed, but are yet to undergo any form of training while working on the NPF aircraft. The training programme has not been implemented due to lack of funds.
It would be recalled that the NPF Airwing established an Aircraft Maintenance Organisation (AMO) and has been certified since 2014.
The committee’s visit to FAAN headquarters and two of its regional offices revealed that one of its major challenges is that of power generation and distribution in all airports. The power distribution to agencies for their daily operations is quite epileptic with no reliable back up power supply.
On the implementation level, 29 safety recommendations have fully been implemented in NCAA, two partial implementation and six yet to be implemented.
The Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) has recommendations implemented with one not implemented, while the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) has eight that have been fully implemented, three partially implemented and two not implemented.
Bristow Helicopters has implemented fully 15 of the recommendations with only one recommendation not yet implemented.
OAS Helicopters has implemented two of the recommendations while one is yet to be implemented. Nigeria Police only partially implanted one recommendation.
Skyway Aviation Plc. (SAHCo) is yet to implement three of the recommendations, leaving it with just one partially implemented.
Dana Air on its part has implemented five of its accident/incident recommendations while still working on just one that is yet to be implemented. Aero on the other hand, has complied with one recommendation; one partially implemented and one not implemented at all.
Chanchangi before its extinction implemented only one safety recommendation out of two recommendations. Other carriers that have gone into extinction without bothering to take action on safety are Okada Air, Bellview, Sky Executive Aviation Services among others.
Members of the committee were drawn from NCAA, AIB, FAAN, Nigerian Air Force and other critical government agencies.
The committee charged NCAA to be firmer and more proactive in its regulatory activities especially with other government service providers/agencies.
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