A former Director-General of Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Dr. Harold Demuren, has called for domestic clearing house for airlines willing to interline and codeshare, an arrangement that is similar to what the International Air Transport Association (IATA) is doing with over 290 global airlines.
Demuren, at the quarterly Aviation Round Table (ART) Breakfast meeting held virtually with the theme: “Utilising Interlining and Codeshare Agreements as Tools for Domestic Airlines Profitability and Passenger Comfort,” put together by ART, at the weekend, stated that the airlines would need the ‘protection’ of the aviation regulatory body to give a bite to the proposed interline as well as act as an umbrella for the project.
He further stated that the idea of interline would help to grow the sector and for the general comfort of passengers who are at the mercy of airlines whenever there are flight delays and cancellation without alternative to passengers who are left stranded at airports.
Nigeria is making a breakthrough in what is expected to be the first interline/codeshare deal between domestic airlines in Nigeria as fast growing Ibom Air has concluded plans to unveil the new partnership with an un-named carrier next month.
There are indications that the deal is with Dana Air An interline flight is an agreement between airlines to coordinate passengers with an itinerary that uses multiple airlines, without having to check in again or deal with their baggage at the stopover while codeshare agreement is where airlines operate flights on behalf of another airline, using their flight code.
The idea for domestic airline interline has been on the table for close to 20 years without any appreciable progress.
While Air France interlined with defunct Bellview and Aero many years ago, domestic airlines have shied away from it as a result of many bottlenecks and challenges associated with the arrangement that experts believe are surmountable.
The former NCAA director general urged all industry stakeholders, especially the airlines, to work with NCAA in dismantling Bilateral Air Services Agreement (BASA) that helps to setback airlines, while taking advantage of the new African air transport initiative, the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) that gives benefits to airlines in the region.
. His words: “Other countries in Africa and particularly West Africa have broken these barriers. We should support what George Uriesi of IbomAir has done and that is the best way to go for airlines in Nigeria.”
Demuren lauded the one ticket initiative, just as he admitted that merger could not be forced, although airlines can cooperate with one another. Demuren flayed the slow process of interline/codeshare in Nigeria,
stressing that this should have been done long time ago in the interest of the sector. He pointed to the use and advancement of technology by commercial banks with the way a bank ATM machine can be used for financial transactions with other banks’ ATM cards. He stated that aviation in Nigeria should be at the fore front of the deployment of technology to make air travel seamless and enjoyable. On his part, IATA representative in Africa’s sub–region,
Dr. Samson Fatokun, lamented the appalling state of the country’s carriers, saying that “Nigerian airlines are no longer the beautiful bride of many international carriers that want to partner any of the nation’s carriers.”
His words: “Nigerian carriers need to join or partner with international airlines including strong African airlines like Ethiopian Airlines, Egypt Air and other reputable carriers in the region. Nigerian airlines are local champions and not playing in the big league. “They are not showing seriousness.
The world is a global village; Nigerian airlines do not have attractive network. They are no longer to be reckoned with.
They provide poor services, have no quality products.” Fatokun noted that the carriers should start seeing opportunities, regretting top management of the airlines hardly attend summits where aviation decisions are taken and which have great impact on their operations. “You can’t run a successful airline that way.
There must be legal framework to guarantee confidence and safety. They must be strategic, seek cooperation. Nigerian carriers enter into alliances and cooperation when they are about to die. At that point, nobody takes them seriously. “Training is required. You must train your people to generate revenue. They need personnel to negotiate commercial agreements in your favour,” he noted.