Stakeholders seek Fly Nigeria Act to rescue airlines

Mr Gbenga Olowo


Stakeholders in the aviation industry have relived the imperative of the Fly Nigeria Act to return the local airlines to profitability and saved them from collapse.

The Act has been in the works in the last two decades, and it is mainly to drive sufficient traffic to local carriers.Specifically, the legislation is to allow Nigerian commercial operators a monopoly on the fares of government related travel in and outside the country. All civil servants in the country or anyone on government funded air travel will be compelled to fly with the local carriers. The bill, according to an estimate, will earn airlines N500 billion when enacted into law.

President of the Aviation Safety Round Table Initiative (ASRTI), Gbenga Olowo, at the fourth quarterly breakfast meeting of the body in Lagos, recently, observed that the local air travel market remains small despite the huge population and the global aviation growth.

Currently, out of over 170 million population, about 15 million (that is, eight per cent) travel by air, whereas, a place Hong Kong, with 73 million has air traffic of 23 million. Olowo said while the challenges of the local environment are huge, the operators really need to reflect and explore others means to stay afloat.

“The Airlines Operators of Nigeria (AON) need to ask themselves if they are making sufficient money in the business to cover cost. That is why AON should go and put up a bill in respect of the Fly Nigeria Act because it is an indirect way to free business for the airlines and arrest market share.

“I put it to you (airlines) that you are not making enough money to cover the numerous cost and those cost will keep rising. All the costs are exogenous to you; you keep trying but you cannot control them. Therefore, your solution is to increase revenue by the rescue of market share. NANTA has succeeded and they got something good. AON must follow to ensure that it becomes a law.

“We love our airlines and really want them to compete. But I don’t want to get on board and start comparing them to British Airways or Delta. I don’t want be regretting that ‘if I were to be on BA, this or that would not be happening’. No. that is why our airlines must earn the respect that they crave,” Olowo said.

It will be recalled that the Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika, recently said efforts were in top gear to have the National Assembly pass the Fly Nigeria Act.Sirika said: “As part of efforts to make airlines viable in Nigeria, the ministry is making moves to have the National Assembly pass a fly Nigeria act. This Act will require that anybody travelling on a ticket bought with public funds must travel on a Nigerian carrier unless the route is not served by a Nigerian carrier. However, with your private funds, you can do as you like. Many countries, including America, have such Acts.”

Managing Director of Overland Airways, Capt. Edward Boyo, agreed that the Fly Nigeria Act initiative is good for the industry, but the local airlines needed more from the environment to make headway.

Boyo said: “The airline business is not different from any other business. Let the market force prevail and let the mechanism work. We airline operators are set out to make profit from the provision of airline transport services and we have an ecosystem within which we operate. That ecosystem must stop predating on airlines. The airlines are on top, but the predatory behaviour of the entire society on the airlines is too much. You don’t do anything for us, yet the public is demanding for an airline industry that they have not invested in. I think the AON is doing a great job and we are open to measurement,” Boyo said.

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