The Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) has called for the renegotiation of Bilateral Air Service Agreement (BASA) with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) following the federal government’s approval of additional flights to the Emirates Airline, which puts domestic carriers operating to UAE in great disadvantage.
In a statement issued yesterday by its Executive Chairman, Captain Nogie Meggison, AON faulted the approval of more flights for the Dubai-based Emirates to Abuja, describing it as unfair to Nigerian airlines operating to Sharjah, UAE.
The airline operators said with that approval, the Middle East mega carrier has now increased its frequency to four flights daily into Nigeria “on the eve of when a Nigerian carrier began flights to UAE operated with 100 per cent Nigerian pilots, cabin crew, engineers and dispatchers.
The airline operators added that they had appealed that government must stand tall to play the aeropolitics to support such indigenous carriers, otherwise, they would end up the same way as Bellview, Arik Air and Medview, which were unable to play in the wild and aggressive field of international aeropolitics.
“It is very unfair for Emirates to be allowed such increase barely two weeks after the launch of flights on July 5, 2019 to Sharjah, UAE by Air Peace, our very own Nigerian airline. The move effectively places our indigenous carriers at a massive disadvantage, the Nigerian economy and the jobs of our youths and huge capital flight,” AON said.
“And sadly Air Peace is still waiting to be allocated a dedicated Lounge or departure wing at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport to signify that this is a Nigerian airline; as against the case with Emirates that has a huge lounge at the Dubai International Airport that is heavily branded in the airline’s colours. The same goes with Etihad in Abu Dhabi, British Airways in London, Lufthansa in Frankfurt, and Air France in Paris.
“In the light of the above therefore, it is little wonder that the three major carriers in the United States (United, American and Delta) cried out against the same open skies and anti-competitive behaviour,” AON said.
The operators remarked that the US airlines had accused Emirates of being funded by its government to the tune of over $50 billion and undercutting US carriers by offering below-market fares on flights that go to other destinations beyond the Middle East, at the expense of American jobs and the American Economy.
It also noted that in 2017, the economic policy of the Trump administration to protect the American economy, jobs and the airlines subsequently forced the Emirati airlines to reduce their flights by about 30 per cent, noting that such scenario is a classic example of domestic airlines crying out against unfair competition and having their government standing behind them with full support to effect change and ensure that domestic airlines with private funds get “A Fair Deal” against foreign competition from state-owned airlines.
“It is unfair to unleash a band of ravenous and voracious wolves against a harmless and privately funded puppy that is still trying to find its feet and doing all it can to survive, create economic impact and jobs for our youths. It is the role of government; therefore, to protect our very own Nigerian carriers and preserve the Nigerian economy and the jobs of our unemployed youths.
“The additional double daily flights given to Emirates, a highly subsidised airline is not necessary at this time as statistics show that half of the flights out of Abuja are half empty and the fact that the Emirati airlines already have an unfair trade advantage of 150 flights monthly out of Nigeria; as against 12 monthly flights for Nigerian airlines that should have been allowed to stabilise and grow its operations into the UAE to a level where the airline can compete favourably on the route,” AON said.
AON noted that Emirates as of today, operates two daily flights out of Lagos and two daily flights out of Abuja, adding that Etihad, from the same country, also operates daily flights out of Lagos as well, making it 35 flights a week.
“This translates to five flights daily and a total of 150 flights per month from UAE; as against a Nigerian carrier that only just started operating three flights weekly (12 flights monthly into UAE). This is a colossal plundering of the Nigerian economy through capital flight and a huge loss of Nigerian jobs.
AON called on the federal government to review all existing Bilateral Air Service Agreements (BASAs) to readdress the unfair trade advantage given to foreign airlines against Nigerian airlines.
“This will go a long way to safeguard the Nigerian economy from continued plundering of our resources, preserve the lively hood of workers in the aviation sector, create jobs for our many unemployed youths, promote technology transfer, and significantly reduce capital flight in line with the vision of the President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration,” AON also said.
Emirates had said earlier that the additional frequency approved for it by the federal government was for Hajj operations, which it hopes to end after the Hajj flight service.
But reacting to the approval of additional frequency to the Middle East carrier, the General Secretary of Aviation Round Table (ART) and CEO of Centurion Aviation Security, Group Captain John Ojukutu (retd), said some of these frequencies given to foreign carriers were pre-negotiated unilaterally by government officials at the expense “of our common interest.”