The Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Air Peace Limited, Barrister Allen Onyema, has appealed to the Federal Government to stop granting multiple designations to foreign airlines operating into the country in the interest of domestic airlines
This is just as he also asked the Federal Government to play aero-politics to protect Nigerian airlines.
Onyema made the appeal at the just concluded 23rd annual conference of the League of Airport and Aviation Correspondents (LAAC) with the theme, “Boosting Aviation Investment Through Policy” held in Lagos.
He pointed out that there was no way Nigerian airline can grow if airlines such as Turkey, Ethiopian and others are allowed to operate into major airports in Nigeria, adding that it is not acceptable anywhere in the world.
The Air Peace boss stated that foreign airlines that enjoy multiple frequencies in Nigeria would not even allow Nigerian airlines to fly into their major airport.
He argued that Turkish Airlines should not be allowed to fly from Istanbul to Abuja and from Abuja to Port Harcourt and from Port Harcourt to Abuja to Istanbul, stressing that if Turkish Airlines and other foreign airlines are interested in passengers from other airports they should partner with domestic airlines in the country to achieve that.
According to Onyema, “The multiple designations and multiple frequencies were given to foreign airlines should be stopped. Nigerian airlines can never grow if Turkish Airlines and other airlines fly from Istanbul to Abuja. From Abuja to Port Harcourt and Port Harcourt to Abuja, Abuja back to Istanbul. This is not done anywhere. Protecting us is not just bringing in up policies to hound any airline but also stopping some of the decision giving these multiple frequencies. It will go a long way to protect Nigerian airlines. If Turkish Airlines is interested in Port Harcourt passengers, let Turkish airlines either fly straight to Port Harcourt, from fly back to Istanbul. Or look for a Nigerian airline to partner, the Nigerian airline will be acting as a feeder, by so doing you are increasing the financial status of these Nigerian carriers and that will promote jobs.”
Speaking further, he contended that the staff employed by the 34 foreign airlines flying into Nigeria put together are not up 100, but that Air Peace alone has employed about 3,000, with about 100 ancillary staff in the last four years, adding that the same thing applies to Medview and other Nigerian airlines.
He added that Aero on its part is doing a great job by trying to revive the place and give Nigeria her first real Maintenance Repair Overhaul (MRO) facility.
On the use of aero-politics by European and Asian countries to deny Nigerian airlines of juicy destinations, Onyema said, “I have always said that our government should play the aero-politics on our behalf because we discovered that Nigerian airlines are deliberately being frustrated by international aero-politics. It is not the fault of our government and I am sure the president and commander in chief of Nigeria are very, very keen in promoting indigenous investment in this country, that I can assure you. You can see its interest in what I have just said when he removes duties from commercial aircraft import and commercial aircraft spares. So that is a very huge support for airlines in Nigeria.”
He continued, “However when it comes to international aero-politics, there is a lot awaiting to be done. Because it is a very dirty industry not just within Nigeria, it is everywhere. If you don’t play the politics right you get your fingers burnt. Nigerian airlines have been on the receiving end over the years and of course, all these other countries will bring one policy or the other to protect their own because the indigenous airlines are the ones providing the jobs. In Air peace you have over 3000 staff, in Nigeria, one person working takes care of about 10 other people. So, Air Peace is taking care of over 300,000 Nigerians every day. These people could have been unleashed onto the streets and they will do some things that are not okay.”
He stated that there must be conscious effort to protect indigenous airlines in the country, adding that the Federal Government has done great by removing all sorts of taxation such as import duties and all that, adding that without that Air Peace would not have been able to own the size of the fleet it has today.
“I am very grateful to the Federal Government for that. It is not the fault of the federal government, Nigerians are very good people and the government is good. Nigeria and Ghana, we want to play by the rules but these other foreign countries don’t.”
To buttress his point, the Air Peace boss cited what happened to Virgin Nigeria, Arik Air and Medview Airlines on the Dubai route, adding that now that Air Peace is operating the route there is competition coming.
He said that before now the airfares on the route were sky high but that with the entrance of Air Peace within the last 10 days, fares have come crashing.
This situation, he added is good for the Nigerian flying public but that it must be done in a way that it does not breed unfair competition, where state subsidy is used to crash fare beyond that which is acceptable.
Onyema stated that once that was done domestic airlines expect the Federal Government to step in and address it.