Foreign Airlines and Corporate Social Responsibility

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Few years ago at the African Aviation Finance Conference held in Johannesburg, South Africa, representatives of foreign airlines that operate in Nigeria spoke about the country’s aviation market and Air France, British Airways, KLM and Lufthansa admitted that in terms of profitability per flight, their Nigerian operations are were among the most profitable routes.

None of these airlines has operated to Nigerian destinations for less than 50 years, but industry insiders and aviation labour unions regularly excoriate these airlines for contributing little as Corporate Social Responsibility or any other type of investment in the country where about $2 billion is repatriated from by international carriers annually.

Beyond the aforementioned airlines, there are also Emirates, Qatar Airways, Etihad, Delta, Turkish Airways, Ethiopia Airlines and others.

THISDAY learnt that over the years, aviation stakeholders had complained about the detached disposition of these airlines by not willing to invest in Nigeria, employ Nigerians in the technical areas of their operations or institute services that could contribute in the individual or intuitional development of the Nigerian society.

But the airlines usually insist that they show enough commitment as their head office allows, but indications show that they do more for other countries in Africa and elsewhere they operate than in Nigeria. For example, a major US airliner some years ago built a facility that include protocol service and two departure gates at the Katoka International Airport, Accra and when Nigerian journalists asked the airline why it did not build similar facility in Nigeria from where it airlifts more passengers from. The airline official was evasive in his response. But informed source said the issue had to do with trust and transparency in interaction between airport management agency and the airline.

THISDAY investigation of the contribution of foreign airlines in Nigeria in terms of Corporate Social Responsibility noticed that many of the airlines just sponsor events, make contribution to humanitarian efforts but do not have a consistent CSR programme. This is a half-hearted intervention that earns more publicity that value.
For example, Air France Partners Nollywood in projecting films, actors and producers, KLM partnered with Travelstart to support Nigeria’s Bobsled and Skeleton team and British Airways support small and medium enterprises by helping travel agents grow into travel consultants. Also, Lufthansa supports Help Alliance, but these are seemingly spontaneous overtures that are not designed for the long term.

This is why when the Middle East carrier, Emirates Airlines established the programme of identifying with Nigerian children on Children’s Day, the airline received a lot of commendation from parents.

Ahead of the May 27 Children’s Day celebrations this year, Emirates Airlines on May 26, 2018 put the Nigerian children in a celebration mood with a myriad of social activities at the Ikeja City Mall, Lagos.

In the early hours of Saturday, the City Mall had been filled to the brim with lots of children dressed in Emirates Pilot and cabin crew uniforms and moving towards the well decorated Emirates’ podium.

The occasion, which kicked off at about 11am engaged the over 100 children who attended the event with the popular and amazing movie known as Sherlock Gnomes.

Addressing the children in his short welcome speech before the children and their parents went into the cinema session, Emirates Country Manager in Nigeria, Afzal Parambil thanked the children and their parents for massively turning up for the event.
According to Parambil, the activity, which was in line with the airline’s felicitation with young travelers and intending young travelers, provides an opportunity for various school children and every Nigerian children, the opportunity to have fun and to feel honoured by the airline, particularly on the occasion of Children’s Day.

While encouraging attendees to Patronise Emirates at all times, Parambil who is also the Regional Manager of West Africa said, “Thank you very much for coming. Your parents brought you here and you will watch only one movie. Next time you are traveling, make sure you fly Emirates where you can watch over 3000 movies. We want to celebrate it with you and make it exciting for all of you”.

At the end of the party, children and their parents were given free Emirates souvenirs, including bags, books, food, drinks amongst other valuable items.

Commending Emirates Airlines, a parent, Mrs. Fabamise Dolapo thanked the Emirates for their kind gesture, remarking that recognising children in such a way is the best CSR.

“This event shows that Emirates knows what they are doing. They are not neglecting the children and I give them kudos. Bringing them together is the best an airline could do but they should also create a platform where they can hear the voice of these children so as to know how they feel”.

With the annual Children’s Day celebration with Nigerian children, Emirates has shown an example to other foreign airlines and it is expected that others should emulate the airline.