Politics stalls Air Peace’s London, Houston, Dubai operations
The airlines got the Federal Government’s approval to operate the seven international, and 17 regional routes – for which four Boeing 777 airplanes were acquired about a year ago. But inability to deploy aircraft on the routes till date has fuelled doubts on the airlines’ actual capacity to represent Nigeria effectively.
Apparently in response, Air Peace said authorities of most of the international destinations the carrier had been designated to operate were either deliberately foot-dragging in processing the airlines’ application, or imposing frustrating conditions to discourage her from flying into their domains.
The Guardian recently reported that a new wave of aero-politics in bilateral air travel pacts is the bane of Nigerian airlines on the international front.
Indeed, the subtle politics of market protectionism and discrimination cut across Europe and even African countries, staking the odds against Nigerian flag carriers, who are now frustrated out of the international routes.
The operators, contrary to blames that they are weak and too small to compete, said until the Federal Government rises up to demand fair play across the board and support local operators, the foreign carriers would continue to dominate Nigerian market to the detriment of both the local industry and the economy at large.
Air Peace Chief Operating Officer, Oluwatoyin Olajide, explained that some of the destination countries only responded to Air Peace’s application after two years of receiving it.
“Where the destination countries reluctantly approved the airline’s application to fly into their domains, impossible charges were imposed to frustrate and discourage us from acting on such approval,” Olajide said.
The high charges imposed on Nigerian airlines by other nations, she said, were unfortunately not responded to back home. “The foreign airlines are rather pampered in Nigeria, and given approval to operate to multiple destinations.”
She dismissed claims that domestic airlines lacked the capacity to take advantage of the Bilateral Air Service Agreements (BASA), which Nigeria signed.
In demonstration of its capacity, she said, Air Peace was at the moment consistently operating into 14 domestic and five regional destinations, including Accra, Banjul, Dakar, Freetown, and Monrovia.
Olajide maintained that Air Peace has capacity to operate into all destinations approved for it, announcing that the airline was concluding arrangements to launch its Dubai and Sharjah services before the end of the year.
In response to claims that some foreign airlines operating in Nigeria had offered 20 pilots jobs, she said the carrier had so far directly offered jobs to more than 3,000 Nigerians, besides impacting the nation’s economy in many other respects.
She also identified the inability of airlines to operate into most of the nation’s airports once it was sunset, as a great disservice to the operational capacity of the carriers.
The Secretary-General, Aviation Round Table (ART), Group Captain John Ojikutu (rtd), said the gross imbalance skewed in favour of foreign airlines continues to rub off on the economy and growth of local airlines.
Ojikutu said: “How can our airlines develop capacity when any foreign airline can fly to all four or five of our international airports? How can our airlines develop capacity when the exclusive market on our domestic and regional routes is left open to foreign airlines? Which law allows only Saudi airlines to airlift nationals of other countries for Hajj?
“Would Britain allow Arik or Med-View to fly to Gatwick and Heathrow the way the British Airways flies to Lagos and Abuja? Or would the U.S. allow Nigerian airlines to have multiple destinations the way Delta Air flies to Abuja and Lagos?
“Worse still, which African country would allow a Nigerian airline to gallivant in her country the way Ethiopian Airlines is gallivanting to all of Nigeria’s five international airports? We need to call government’s attention to this lopsidedness, else there is no room for capacity development for the domestic airlines,” he said.
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