Nigeria’s major carrier, Arik Air, monday announced that it had flown over 19.5 million passengers in the 10 years of its existence and that it would lift over 20 million travellers by end of December.
The announcement was made by its Managing Director, Chris Ndulue, during a press conference to mark the 10 years anniversary of the airline.
Ndulue said over the years, Arik had grappled with a myriads of obstacles noting that the current challenges that could be critical to the failure or survival of domestic carriers were the difficulty in accessing forex and high prices of aviation fuel.
He stressed that these two factors were critical to airline operation and urged the government to intervene.
Ndulue also spoke of plans by the airline to grow its fleet from the current 28 aircraft to over 52 by 2025, adding that the effects of the current economic recession would require Arik to be cautious in any expansion drive.
The Arik Air boss said despite the current economic recession, the airline intends to expand its flight operations in West and Central Africa as well as new frontiers in Asia and the Middle East in the years ahead, but would be cautious in its expansion programme.
“Our goal in the last years has been to pursue safety and security. This has seen us take several steps to up the game. We are hoping to expand our operations into West and Central Africa as well as Asia and Middle East .
“We have taken a new approach to be cautious in our expansion drive because of the realities of the current recession. This has made funding a big issue, that is the reason we are slowing down. We will find solutions to the funding gap. This has made us look outside Nigeria to get bank loans without local bank guarantee,” Ndulue said.
He said the last one year has been very challenging because of the exorbitant price of aviation fuel, which has increased from N85 per litre two years ago to its current N200 per litre .
Ndulue said government should assist indigenous carriers by granting them more access to foreign exchange to enable them offset expenditure on aircraft maintenance, personnel training, insurance premium and other operations denominated in foreign currency.
He spoke of plans to negotiate codeshare agreements with foreign carriers in areas of common interest.
He said there were potential in the air transport business if government could put in place the right policy environment, improve airport infrastructure and involve domestic carriers in the Bilateral Air Service Agreement (BASA).