Airline operators, speaking at the 22nd seminar/awards of the League of Airports and Aviation Correspondent, LAAC in Lagos, have blamed the Nigeria government for its harsh policies, as well as lack of support and protection towards their growth and survival in the country.
The operators said that the environment was not enabling for them to do business and break even, except the government addresses the challenges faced in the aviation sector.
Captain Roland Iyayi, the
Managing Director/CEO TopBrass Aviation, said apart from infrastructural problems operators are faced with, they cannot also compete with their foreign counterparts not because they do not have capacity but because the government is not concern whether they succeed or go into oblivion.
He noted that Nigerian airlines who operate international routes are having a hard time operating the routes because of certain issues government needs to handle but has failed to do.
Iyayi sites the recent challenge encountered on the London route by Medview airline.
“We should begin to appreciate the constraints under which Nigeria airlines operate, it’s extremely excruciating, we are actually being staffle out of business that’s the truth. When you come as a Nigerian airline to stay competitive and you do not have the Nigerian government backing you up on international operations, its a No,No, it’s not possible, Nigeria Airways had 14 slots in Heathrow, we had grandfather rights to those slots, when NAL went out of business, am privy to the fact that the Ministry of Aviation tried very hard even before the liquidator to try and make sure that we actually keep those slots but we lost them simply because the Ministry failed to do what was right, they knew about the grandfather rights nobody did a thing. Now, Medview went into London, Arik went into London, they needed to have slots into London Heathrow, what happened, the slots Airport Company told them they couldn’t get any slots, they gave slots where it was totally not useful to fly into London”.
“Now, when you negotiate multi-laterals and Bi-laterals agreements, part of the reciprocity agreements talks about the slots and access to market but that was never negotiated on behalf of Nigeria operators, so when you talk about international operations, Medview can’t walk into London and talk to the authorities in London without the Nigerian government taking their rightful place. I guarantee you that Nigerian Air will have a slot out of Terminal 3 London, why? Because the government in trying to make sure that this particular airline succeeds will do any and everything to make sure it happens to the detriment of the Nigerian operators who has expended so much money, his money and borrowed money to do business” he added.
The TopBrass boss said it is unfortunate that government gives foreign airlines the wherewithal to do business in the country but same is not accorded Nigerian airlines in their countries, adding that it is high time government understands what Aeropolitics is all about and play it according to assist the country’s airlines.
“British airways comes in here, Virgin comes in here, they get everything and anything they want and however they want it but I guarantee you go to London and ask for the simplest of things, airport land facilities, you will spend 6 months struggling to get it, Arik had the same problem in South Africa and its just South African Airways, our African brothers.
The point am trying to make here is this, there is a major part to play by government when it comes to Aeropolitics and it need to be understood, it goes beyond the amount of money you have, Arik was banished to 2 o’clock slot in London, who does that?
Medview ended up at Gatwick but everybody is coming into Lagos, Abuja, Kaduna, Port Harcourt, name it, at the end of the day, we have a situation here where our local operators have a decimated market to exploit and to that extent, we cannot stay profitable”.
Managing Director, AirPeace, Barr. Allen Onyema said it is pathetic that in Nigeria, Nigerians prefer to give foreign airlines what they want and neglect their own.
He noted that “what happened to Medview in London could happen to another Nigeria airline, all those airlines coming into Nigeria, sometimes when they come, they refer them two times over before they will able to even fly, if a Nigerian airlines does that over there, the next day you wouldn’t come in, so, give us a break, we should support our own in this country, we are crying out”.
MD/CEO Medview, Alhaji Muneer Bankole, Mr. Taiwo Adenekan and Roland Iyayi MD/CEO TopBrass
Alhaji Muneer Bankole, Managing Director, Medview airline said the environment is harsh for airlines to operate and that until government starts to show concern, the airlines will continue to struggle to stay afloat.
“You know very well that the environment is not conducive, so many political issues, security threats, financial issues , so for now for those of us who are still in the business, I will say we give thanks to God helping us in sustaining this momentum.