Medview Airlines would be the third Nigerian airline to operate to Dubai. The airline marked its inaugural flight to the Middle East business hub on December 7, recording high load factor of over 85 per cent.
That was an encouraging figure and may be a prologue to successful flight operation to Dubai by the airline, which for now flies three times a week to United Arab Emirates commercial city.
But many Nigerians familiar with the Dubai route are uncertain whether Medview would succeed in the route or not. This is because two Nigerian airlines had operated the route with such high hope and none lasted more than three months.
Few years ago, the defunct Virgin Nigeria Airways started Lagos-Dubai flights and about three months after, the airline stopped its flights to the destination. According to industry observers, Emirates, which is the host airline in Dubai lowered its fares when Virgin Nigeria started flights to the city and because the Nigerian carrier could not lower its own fares, passengers gravitated to the Middle East carrier and within three months Virgin Nigeria could not sustain its operation to Dubai.
Also in 2014, Arik Air started operation to Dubai and only lasted three months on the route. Inside sources told THISDAY that one of the major factors that forced the Nigerian airline out of the route was its inability to sustain the load factor with which it started. The number of passengers continued to go down until it became economically unrealistic to continue flights to Dubai.
â€œAfter the initial high load factor in the first two months, passenger figures started dropping. Even at that, we were still number two in terms of market share from Lagos to Dubai,â€ Arik insider told THISDAY.
Another factor attributed to the failure of these Nigerian airlines to operate long and profitable flights to Dubai was the fact that many Nigerian passengers going to Dubai have their final destinations beyond Dubai. So while the Nigerian carriers operate point to point (from Lagos to Dubai), Emirates with its hub is Dubai carries passengers farther to their final destinations.
â€œMany passengers going to Dubai are going farther than Dubai, so we needed to have another airline on code-share that could take our passengers farther than Dubai but we didnâ€™t have. Then another thing is that Nigerian passengers going to Dubai is seasonal, so you may not have high number of passengers every day going to Dubai.
â€œAlso, when we started, Emirates reduced its flight from Lagos to Dubai to one flight daily from two flights a day but increased it later on. When we started, we were making 80 to 90 percent load factor but shortly after the number of passengers started going down,â€ the Arik source told THISDAY.
The source also noted that Medview may operate the route successfully because of the experience of the management of the airline and the other services the airline might attach to the route, which include operating tourism services and sourcing visa for passengers.
â€œArranging tours, getting visas for the passengers may give Medview an advantage,â€ the source said.
A travel expert and industry consultant who spoke on condition of anonymity, told THISDAY that it would be good for Nigeria if Medview succeeds in the route, considering the fact that the airline has employed hundreds of Nigerians and their future depends on the success of the airline. He also noted that Medview would help to stamp Nigeriaâ€™s presence in the United Arab Emirates business city.
However, he noted that Medview would struggle to succeed and projected that Emirates would drop fares and Etihad Airways, which is based in Abu Dhabi, would fight back.
â€œEthiopia Airlines has the Asian market locked so it can play with prices on Dubai. Then what will be the niche market for Medview? They will succeed if they connect Kano from Lagos to Dubai or they connect Mumbai from Dubai. They need a niche market to survive; if not, they might go by summer next year,â€ the industry source predicted.
But THISDAY learnt that the airline has prepared well to sustain its operations to Dubai. The Managing Director of Medview Airline, Alhaji Muneer Bankole has almost 15 years flight operation to the Middle East. Medview has operated Hajj service to the Holy Land in Saudi Arabia for over 10 years and in addition to airline operation, Medview has four ancillary services it provides, which would serve as boost to scheduled flight services to Dubai and other destinations in the Middle East.
Industry observers seem to be optimistic about Medviewâ€™s success in the Dubai route, pinning the success to the airlineâ€™s invaluable Middle East experience.
During the flight, Bankole who expressed gratitude to passengers for their unflinching support to the airline reminded them that the success of the airline is the success of Nigeria and with that patriotic fervor; he offered that every passenger that flew with the airline five times to Dubai would have a free ticket to that destination. Also the airline offers every passenger special free baggage allowance.
He said as a Nigerian carrier, there is need to encourage the citizens to remain loyal to the company and patronise it, as it offers the best services on all its routes.
â€œWe have a special free baggage allowance, with two pieces of 25kg each, which gives 50kg, that is a wonderful gift as well and we want to say to you coming onboard this flight, we will continue to remember you, this is the beginning of good things to come to the country called Nigeriaâ€, he said.
Many Nigerians share the high expectation that Medview Airline would succeed on the Dubai route. That success will be treasured by all Nigerians.