By Chinedu Eze
Industry experts have called on the federal government to introduce the Fly Nigeria Act as a policy to support local airlines.
This, they noted would make it compulsory that anyone travelling on government expense must fly the local airline or its partners.
The experts under the aegis of Aviation Safety Round Table Initiative (ASRTI), made their position known in a communiqué issued at the weekend after the first 2019 quarterly breakfast meeting held in Lagos.
The industry think tank body noted that Nigerian airlines and the industry as whole do not benefit from the many foreign airlines that airlift passengers out of the country and repatriate over 75 per cent of their revenues, noting that if the Fly Nigeria Act was introduced, foreign carriers would partner with local airlines in code-share and other arrangements and the indigenous carriers would earn some revenue from the partnership.
“There is need to sign the Fly-Nigeria-Act legislation to help protect the Nigeria travel market for both local airlines and travel agents,” the experts said.
Also in the communiqué, ASRTIT urged the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) as the regulatory agency for air travel business in Nigeria, to go beyond licencing of travel agents and take steps to address the challenges that have in recent years caused a decline in air bookings and performance of travel agencies in the country.
“Government through the NCAA has to create an enabling environment for the growth of travel agents in Nigeria.
“The local content law in Nigeria needs to be applied fully in regulatory operations of travel agents so as to preserve the sector for benefits of Nigerian citizens,” it explained.
The body noted that the stakeholders in air travel business (airlines, NCAA, FAAN and NANTA) needed to frequently share data information to avoid conflicting figures in industry data, which impede planning.
“All travel agents in Nigeria should make deliberate efforts to register with the NCAA to attract favourable regulatory benefits and protection from external exploitation.
“The NCAA as sole regulator of air travel business in Nigeria, has a duty to approach IATA with the country’s expectations in terms of standards that should be applied in the Nigerian environment, regarding travel agency business so as to protect its own,” the experts said.
They observed that the International Air Transport Association (IATA) activities in Nigeria should be looked into and stressed that the world body must respect local laws to protect the travel agencies in Nigeria without interference into commercial activities.
“The National Association of Nigerian Travel Agents (NANTA) should develop and implement rules that can regulate the conduct and ethics of its members in their transaction with customers and airlines. “There is need for stakeholders to give attention and emphasis to training and professionalism in travel agency business,” the body also said.
The federal government recently disclosed that it had taken steps to designate strong, viable indigenous carriers to operate international destinations in order to grow the country’s foreign exchange (FX) earnings by $2 billion yearly through ticket sales.
The Director General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Captain Muhtar Usman, had told THISDAY that in all the recent Bilateral Air Service Agreement (BASA) Nigeria entered into, the government also made it clear that foreign airlines must have to partner domestic operators.
He had said the government also designated Nigerian carriers to operate long haul destinations, just as he projected that in the next four years, Nigeria would save over $2 billion annually through the initiative when the policy is fully implemented.
This he said would enable the Nigerian carriers benefit from skills acquisition, fleet renewal and revenue generation.