Efforts by African countries to revive defunct national airlines appear ready to bear fruit amid dwindling revenue and depletion of traffic occasioned by COVID-19.
Despite the challenges, African nations are undaunted and have continued to make investments in new national airlines many predict would be loss-making. While Uganda,
Tanzania and Rwanda have already started their airlines, Nigeria and Ghana are some of the nations determined to revive their national or flag carrier airlines.
Some of the latest attempts, however, involved partnerships with the private sector – in contrast to the public model many believe led to earlier flag carriers’ failure.
Since its launch on January 30, 2018, one of Africa’s newest flag carrier airlines, Uganda Airlines, has continued to expand its operations with the spreading of its wings across many countries.
Ever since its launch, many observers see the carrier expanding to connect East Africa and other routes and taking a big chunk of the market already dominated by Kenya Airways and Africa’s most profitable airline,
Ethiopian Airlines. Following Nigeria’s latest failed attempt to launch a national carrier last year, the country’s Federal Government has resuscitated the plan.
It will soon release bids for a flag carrier, “which will be private sector-driven.” Aviation Minister, Hadi Sirika, recently confirmed that “In June this year, we had a business case and then started the process to establish a national carrier,” he added.
The project includes making Nigeria a hub for maintenance repair and overhaul in the region, where, apart from facilitivation ties in Egypt and Ethiopia, no other MRO infrastructure exists.
“With fleet sizes increasing in the continent, Nigeria is a good candidate for MRO through private-public partnership (PPP),” said Sirika. The proposed independent MRO facility in Nigeria will serve the maintenance demands of airlines in West and Central Africa and also provide maintenance for national carrier and African leasing company.
Sirika said the MRO will be structured as a Build Operate and Transfer (BOT) model with government acting as both the grantor of the concession and facilitator of the project, while the private partner consortium will be responsible for designing, building, financing, operating and maintaining the proposed facility for an agreed concession period.
The establishment of aircraft maintenance facilities in Nigeria could help airlines repair their aircraft in Nigeria and save the country a whooping $117 million on aircraft offshore maintenance yearly.
On the average, Nigerian airlines pay at least $2.8 million for C-Checks of aircraft, while their competitors could carry out such maintenances for a mere $500,000, adding that insurance premiums paid on aircraft is quadruple of what legacy airlines pay around the world.
The cost of aircraft maintenance would have reduced by at least 30 per cent if Nigeria has maintenance facility in the country, but the absence of the facility has upped the cost of maintenance. C-Check is performed approximately every 20–24 months or a specific amount of actual flight hours (FH) or as defined by the manufacturer.
This maintenance check is much more extensive than a B Check, requiring a large majority of the aircraft’s components to be inspected.
This check puts the aircraft out of service, and the aircraft must not leave the maintenance site until it is completed. Meanwhile, Ghana has also revived interest in a new national airline decades after Ghana Airways was liquidated.
Ghana has been without a national airline since 2010, and prior to that, Ghana International Airways went out of business in 2010. Ghana Airways went out of business in 2004.
To underscore the importance of the national airline to the country, the government of Ghana and EgyptAir signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that will see EgyptAir partnering with the government of Ghana to establish a new flag carrier.