The outgoing Director General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Captain Muhtar Usman, has said for Nigerian airlines to operate profitably from West African destinations, they must brace up for competition.
Usman, acknowledged that Nigeria has the highest passenger traffic in the sub-region, saying the indigenous carriers have to put their house in order to benefit from the huge market.
He said for airlines to run properly there should embrace corporate governance that would ensure that the airlines are operated like business entity tailored to achieve results, which are profit and goodwill.
He said Nigerian airlines must have the right equipment for the routes in the sub-region. This, he said refers to the type of aircraft that could be operated, depending on the distance and passenger traffic, noting that an airline could be profitable with the right aircraft type to the route.
Usman, also urged Nigerian airlines to engage in aggressive marketing to win over the customers in the sub-region and retain those customers with efficient services.
He noted the allegation that some French-speaking countries had been accused of levelling high charges on Nigerian airlines, even though countries which included Senegal, Cote d’Ivoire, Togo, Niger and Mali have denied that they charge Nigerian carriers differently, saying they do not discriminate in levelling airport charges and taxes on airlines.
“As far as I know, charges are not meant to be discriminatory charges are not discriminatory. There should be a level playing field for every airline, but the Nigerian carriers should do aggressive marketing. We had heard such allegations in the past and we have been taking them up at various fora and they kept denying it,” Usman said.
He also pointed out that the domestic market has not been fully exploited, noting that there is presently no direct flight from Kano to Enugu, Calabar to Yola, for example, and said that with the right aircraft, airlines can operate profitably to yet unexplored routes.
“Airlines can open the new routes and make profits if they use the right aircraft. If you operate these routes with small aircraft, like turboprops and operate efficiently, the airlines can make profits on the routes. Once an operator does the real survey, it will break even and make profits. The airlines can even partner with state governments to develop tourism. It is activities that attract people and make transportation possible,” Usman said.
Speaking on the West African air transport market, the Chief Operating Officer of the Africa World Airlines (AWA), Sean Mendis, recently said right now the market is low, but would rise to become very huge in the near future.
“I think the market has depressed in West Africa. This is because economic development in the sub-region has not been strongest. There have been civil war and unrest, Ebola and things like that; all of which have depressed the market for business travels as well as for tourism. There is also the problem of infrastructural development and so forth.
“So we strongly believe as African airliner and as West African airline, in particular whose goal is to connect the region better; that this is a market that we are going to bear; so we are investing and are looking at long term,” he had explained.