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Aviation: Airline operator advocates merger among local carriers

Following the impact of COVID-19, rising ticket prices and increased competition, airlines have been asked to synergise their operations in a bid to cut cost without compromising passenger experience. The Chairman of startup United Nigeria Airlines, Chief Obiora Okonkwo, made the call, saying it was the surest way of cutting cost of operations by remaining strongly in the highly competitive aviation market. Findings had revealed that Dana and Ibom airlines were already tinkering with the idea of codeshare pact with a view to assisting each other to wriggle out of tough operations they are currently going through. Okonkwo equally threw his weight behind interline and codeshare pact among Nigerian carriers, disclosing that his airline was willing and ready to have such relationship with any willing airline.

He further disclosed that his airline had signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with some airlines in the country. Airline interline agreement allows passengers to book through itineraries on multiple airlines with less hassle than booking each one separately. Usually, if two airlines have an interline agreement in place, they will handle the check in and baggage for each other’s passengers. Okonkwo singled out scarcity of foreign exchange as one of the challenges Nigerian airlines were faced with, lamenting that as at two weeks ago, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) had not approved application for foreign exchange to airlines due to scarcity. “As at two weeks, CBN had not given dollars to airlines since February 2021 owing to scarcity of foreign currency. Aircraft business is very capital intensive.

The solution to survival of airlines is access to spare parts. Aircraft spare parts are not sold here in Nigeria, they are sold overseas. Aviation industry should be given all the necessary support to ensure the survival of airlines”. Meanwhile, the astronomical cost of aviation fuel, popularly known as Jet A1, has been attributed to the sharp rise in the cost of air tickets as Nigerians are seeing alternative in air transportation amid security challenges commuters face on the country’s highway.

 

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