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Suntai’s flight of doom as regulator’s albatross

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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.”

Violation
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.

Expert’s view
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.

Last line
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.

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Aviation

U.S. draws curtain on safe skies for Africa initiative

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U.S. draws curtain on safe skies for Africa initiative

A 20-year-old programme by the United States to assist African countries to maintain high safety standards has come to an end with obvoius implications. WOLE SHADARE reports

 

 

The Safe Skies for Africa programme established by former President Clinton on April 1, 1998, which aimed to improve safety and security in aviation on the continent has finally come to an end.

Speaking nostalgically about the impact of the programme to high safety record in Africa, Commissioner, Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB), Akin Olateru, an aircraft engineer, paid tribute to the Managing Director of National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), Dennis Jones, whom he described as a gift to global aviation industry and for ensuring a good job in Africa in the area of safety.

Nobody knows why the American government decided to stop sponsorship or funding of the programme.

The programme was stopped abruptly but if all plans go well, Olateru may get Africa Development Bank (AfDB) to step in to collaborate with the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) to resuscitate the initiative.

AIB seeks AfDB’s help

Olateru had a meeting recently with International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) President in Montreal, Canada, on how to prevail on AfDB to sponsor the programme to help not only Nigeria but other African nations.

According to him, there will be another meeting in the next ICAO Assembly on the clear cut modality to get this done, adding that talks are still ongoing on how to make this work.

“Today comes the end of our programme where we brought in African nations to join us in aviation safety programme sponsored by AIB in conjunction with Safe Skies Africa, which is under the Department of Transportation and the NTSB.

“Unfortunately, the programme has come to an end. The US government will no longer sponsor the safe skies programme. It is very unfortunate. Africa has really benefited from this programme and I think we Africans should put heads together on how we can help ourselves.

“We hope African Development Bank (AfDB) under corporate social responsibility can take up this programme to help Africans. When an aeroplane goes down, it does not distinguish nations.

“This is why we owe it to ourselves, the whole world to work together as a team and strengthen aviation and make it a safer place to be,” added Olateru.

The African Development Bank has invested close to $1 billion over the past decade in the construction and expansion of airport terminals, as well as aviation safety and aircraft financing.

Additional bank interventions in the aviation industry include grants for capacity building and coordination systems in 25 countries and 69 airports that will help increase the number of International Civil Aviation Organization safety and security compliant airports from 3 to 20 by 2019.

Gesture to eight nations

At inception, eight states selected in 1998 for the pilot project included Angola, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Coite d’Ivore (Ivory Coast), Kenya, Mali, Tanzania and Zimbabwe as beneficiaries of the American gesture that was geared towards making them reach up to ICAO safety standards, improve aviation security at a number of African airports,  improve regional air navigation services. Three states, Djibouti, Namibia and Uganda, were added in June 2003.

“People  cannot meet up with collateral requirement to guarantee their payment.and offered numerous trainings for the continent on air safety and accident investigations through the assistance of the United States NTSB.

The initiative focused on conducting safety assessments and security surveys in select countries and formulates action plans together with Africa civil aviation authorities to bring aviation safety and security practices in Africa up to accepted world standards.

Impact to air safety

In the first year, the Department of Transportation held four regional conferences with African civil aviation representatives to discuss with them their airports’ needs and how best the U.S. could assist.

These conferences were built on those held last October in Cote d’Ivoire, Ethiopia and Zimbabwe and then followed by security surveys and safety assessments.

Aside that, the programme opened doors for workshops, helped the improvement of accident investigation programs, and training investigators.

This equally saw to increased commercial air service between the United States and Africa (for example, there are now US commercial flights to Africa, which wasn’t the case earlier before 1998, improved investigation quality, and a reduced rate of accidents involving commercial aircraft.

Shared lessons

In the symposium organised by the NTSB in conjunction with Nigeria’s AIB in Lagos last week, the NTSB team shared a variety of lessons learned from different disciplines.

One of the speakers, a human factors investigator, outlined investigation process and explained how examine all factors—machine, human, and environment—are examined to understand an accident and make recommendations to prevent it from happening again.

The speaker highlighted several accidents investigated in which human factors played a role. But even when a probable cause statement focuses on factors not normally associated with human performance, it’s impossible to totally remove humans from the accident chain.

He noted that to prevent accidents and improve the safety of air travel in Africa, it’s important that operating aircraft are air worthy, meaning that all structure, systems, and engines are intact and maintained in accordance with the regulations.

To emphasise this point, NTSB chief presented a series of case studies discussing air worthiness issues and offered guidance on ways to classify damage to aircraft.

Aviation is a global business. The mission of NTSB and that of AIB is to make transportation safer the world over by conducting independent accident investigations and advocating for safety improvements.

With outreach activities like the one they just completed in Africa, they hope to make aviation safer, not only in Africa, but throughout the world. After all, transportation safety is a global challenge. When safety wins, they all win.

Safe skies key to Africa’s growth

Despite the current financial turmoil, the World Bank estimated sub-Saharan Africa’s growth at 3.7 per cent for 2015, with a slight uptick to 4.4 per cent and 4.8 per cent in 2016 and 2017 respectively.

Six African countries featured in the bank’s list of the 13 economies projected to grow the fastest between 2014 and 2017.

“There’s no doubt that the African growth story remains resilient in the face both of global and continental challenges. However, in order to capitalise on our growth potential, we have to ensure that we have integrated transport solutions in place to promote regional, continental and inter-continental trade,” says Jeoff Motshoba, Executive, Air Traffic Management/ Communications, Navigation and Surveillance at Air Traffic & Navigation Services (ATNS).

“Aviation, in particular, has a critical role to play in providing the kind of infrastructure that a competitive modern economy needs,” he added.

Forecast

The African commercial air travel market represents massive amounts of untouched opportunities for new airlines.

According to the data from International Air Transport Association (IATA), Africa is home to 16 per cent of the world’s population but it accounts for only 2.20 per cent of the global air service market.

With a clear need for air travel and a demand for more quality airlines, the African continent is emerging from under the radar and making gains to increase its total market share.

Reworking Africa’s image

The reputation of African airlines and the complicated cross border political matters have been a hot topic of discussions for many years; however, with a new generation new opportunities are presenting themselves to completely rework the image of Africa in the international air travel industry.

Last line

Safe air travel and secure airports are necessary for increasing trade, attracting investment, expanding tourism, and developing a more modern society as nearly half of all world commerce is conducted by air.

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BASAs: Nigeria’s battle with disadvantaged treaty

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BASAs: Nigeria’s battle with disadvantaged treaty

Nigeria is generally viewed as having one of the most liberalised air transport industries in Africa.  Although still competitive within Africa, it has a significantly weaker bargaining power as regards the BASAs with non-African countries, thereby leading to an imbalance with results spanning from increased dominance of foreign airlines to capital flight. WOLE SHADARE reports 

 

 

Business of freedom

Nothing should stand in the way of aviation. Aviation has been described as business of freedom. Aviation is globalization at its very best. But to deliver aviation’s many benefits needs borders that are open to people and trade.

Over the years, countries Bilateral Air Services Agreements (BASAs) had been modified to guarantee more flights between nations having air pacts with one another. These agreements have become uneven with one party seeking to take advantage of the weaker side to have more flights than their counterparts. Not a few have given it different terms ranging from ‘skewed’ to ‘imbalance and one-sided’ among others.

The lobby

Negotiations to enter into BASAs are usually spearheaded by the Ministry of Aviation after extensive consultation with aviation regulatory authorities and concerned institutions, for example, the immigration authorities.

However, it is quite common to see airline operators, desirous of expanding their routes to target destination, lobby the Ministry of Aviation through diplomatic channels, to engage in formal talks, which usually lead to the commencement of negotiations between countries.

In general, BASAs are negotiated based on the five freedoms prescribed under the International Air Transport Agreement (IATA, which are stated as privilege to fly across a state’s territory without landing;  privilege to land for non-traffic purposes, for refuelling, repairs and maintenance; privilege of an airline from one country to carry traffic from its own country to another country; the privilege of an airline from one country to carry traffic from another country to its own country and the privilege of an airline from one country to carry traffic between two other countries, provided that the flight originates and terminates in its own country.

Out of the five freedoms mentioned, the first two freedoms are considered technical rights while the last three are considered economic and commercial traffic rights.

Unutilised pacts

Never has BASA been talked about than in Nigeria where everybody has become an expert in the subject. Government has been taken to the cleaners because of what they describe as its lackadaisical attitude and lack of policy foresight to protect Nigerian carriers that are not only weak to compete but offer little in terms of financial might to compared with the smallest airlines in Europe.

Nigeria presently has 90 BASA pact with only about 39 of it active. Many of these have been reviewed to create opportunities for domestic carriers, but are largely not utilised. Specifically, domestic carriers are yet to utilise 10 per cent of the air pact due to their limited capacity.

Currently, 33 foreign carriers operate in and out of Nigeria almost on a daily basis. Among them are nine African carriers. Air Peace recently opened Lagos-Dubai operations.

Agreements without reciprocity

Nigeria is into commercial agreements with many countries that operate to the country without reciprocity. The country rakes in millions of dollars from the deal, which clearly shows that the country is not losing on all fronts.

Many of the foreign airlines have also been accused of mopping up the domestic market with designations handed them to operate to Kano, Lagos, Abuja, Port-Harcourt and other cities.

Until recently, and due to the terrible state of Enugu airport, Ethiopian operated to Enugu and Kaduna airports. The airline relies on the Single Air Transport Market (SAATM) to which Nigeria and 28 other countries including Ethiopia are signatories.

SAATM is a project of the African Union to create a single market for air transport in Africa. Once completely in force, the single market is supposed to allow significant freedom of air transport in Africa, advancing the AU’s Agenda 2063.

Some aviation experts have passed some jokes on Nigerian carriers that despite the over 80 international routes given to them, they lack the capacity, discipline to operate profitably.

Expert’s view

Nigerian-born international expert and Chief Operating Officer (CEO), African Aviation Services Limited, Mr Nick Fadugba, says the country’s small fleet of aircraft will make it practically impossible for it to compete with foreign counterparts.

The former Secretary-General of African Airlines Association (AFRAA) put the average fleet size in Nigeria at a maximum of 10 aircraft, a number not enough to compete with British Airways that has over 400 aircraft.

His words: “Delta Airlines have over 500 aircraft. Even Ethiopian Airlines has a 110 aircraft. So how can small airlines compete? And I am not being disrespectful by the way, the airlines I am not talking about is fleet size, I am not talking about commitment to the industry but I want to be realistic, because this industry is cut throat. If you 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 is very hard to succeed.”

However, since Nigeria Airways was liquidated there was no airline to reciprocate on bilateral air service agreements, so foreign airlines gained a huge advantage over Nigerian airlines.

Although Nigeria currently lacks a national carrier, a number of foreign airlines operate to and from the country at varying levels of frequencies to multiple destinations from Nigeria’s international airports located in Lagos, Abuja, Port-Harcourt and Kano.

The reality of operating a national carrier is not as clear cut. A national carrier, unlike other government owned institutions, must be run as a business.

National carrier question

In arguing for a national carrier, a lot of confidence is inadvertently placed in the Ministry of Aviation’s ability to operate the national carrier as a profitable business. The ministry would be expected to take pains to ensure that costing, pricing, advertising, marketing and other business fundamentals are effectively and efficiently carried out to a professional standard.

It is apparent that certain BASAs have been negotiated or renegotiated without extensive consideration of the commercial elements required for the industry to experience the proposed targeted benefits of BASAs neither has there been much emphasis on the economic realities under which the country is operating.

Most agreements provide for royalties to be paid to the Nigerian government where the nominated Nigerian air carriers are unable to reciprocate under the agreement. This measure may be a sound way of boosting government revenue under the agreement but it does nothing commercially for the industry. In some cases, agreements have been signed to stop the payment of these royalties altogether.

Contrast

In stark contrast, in 2014, Emirates entered into an agreement with South African authorities for additional frequencies from South Africa to Dubai. It was reported that the additional frequencies were granted on the condition that the airline pay 40 per cent of the cost of each ticket to South Africa Airways.

As such, there is a commercial benefit to the national carrier and the nation, by extension. It is recommended that the government consider similar options or other commercial options so as to give an incentive for indigenous carriers to continue operations and possibly expand their operations internationally. The idea is not to reduce the frequencies or entry points of foreign carriers but to increase the indigenous air transport industry to a level of competitiveness that would rival that of any foreign country.

Last line

However, as attractive as the concept of reciprocity of rights is in BASAs negotiation, Nigeria as an economy is not primed to take full advantage of the concept. This is because the concept of reciprocity of rights must be exploited within the body of the existing regulatory framework of each participant country. Consequently, whereas the United Kingdom’s extant laws on commerce, immigration and registration of companies are robust enough to streamline foreign entry into their domestic market, Nigerian extant laws are not yet that robust. This results in a huge gap between Nigerian airlines and their foreign counterparts.

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Chinese firm launches solar-powered unmanned aircraft

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Chinese firm launches solar-powered unmanned aircraft

The China-developed solar-powered uncrewed aircraft “MOZI 2” has completed a successful maiden flight, its producer OXAI Aircraft Co., Ltd. said Tuesday.

The flight was conducted on July 27 at an airport in Deqing County in east China’s Zhejiang Province, according to the Shanghai-based company.

The company said the aircraft, designed with a wingspan of 15 meters and solely powered by solar cells, can fly at a maximum altitude of 8,000 meters. It can cruise at a low speed for up to 12 hours during the night after charging in the sunlight for eight hours.

According to Xinhua, the aircraft is expected to be used for disaster relief, reconnaissance and communication.

Mao Yiqing, the company’s general manager, said they would work with 5G service providers to further expand the application of the aircraft.

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Despite Ethiopian crash, air travel safer in Africa

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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

 

 

Steady improvement
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.

Experts’ views
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.

Last line
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.

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Incident concealment: Time bomb for Nigeria’s aviation

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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

 

Risks mitigation
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.

Face-off
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.”

Expert’s view
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.”

Last line
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.

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Europe’s congested airspace, Africa’s empty skies

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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

 

 

Connectivity
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.

The gains
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.

IATA worry
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.

The contradictions
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.”

The potential
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.

Bottlenecks
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.

Last line
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.

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Ibom Air begins commercial flight today

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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.

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The crazy economics of inflight Wi-Fi

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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

 

 

Changing times
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.

Passengers’ power
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.

Monetisation
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.

Crazy pursuit
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.

Last line
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.

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Carrier promises quality services

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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.

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First class travel booms in Nigeria amid global decline

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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.

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