New Airlines Emerge in Nigeria as Global Aviation is Threatened

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Chinedu Eze

New airlines are emerging in Nigeria to take care of the low capacity in the air transport industry. Signals from different parts of the world have shown that it will take years for the air transport industry to recover fully from the devastating effects of COVID-19, as many renowned airlines are going under, some merging, while thousands of aviation workers are losing their jobs.

And with indications that the Nigerian industry currently suffers from low capacity, new airlines are emerging even it is believed that more operating aircraft are needed in the country.

The former Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Aero Contractors, Captain Ado Sanusi, told THISDAY that in Nigeria there would be growth in the industry because the sector is currently underserved that it therefore needs more airlines and more aircraft to meet the surging demand.

He noted that as road transport continues to be unsafe due to security threats and rail transport is yet to connect all parts of the country, there would continue to be high demand for air travel in the country.

But industry analysts said Nigeria’s case is going to be an isolated one because global prediction indicated that 2021 would still be a tough year for the aviation industry and that the sector would begin to ease out next year, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

Reports indicate that Virgin Airways has fired more than 3,000 people including 600 Pilots. Virgin Australia has filed for bankruptcy. African carrier, Air Mauritius has gone into administration just as South African Airways has become bankrupt.
Finish carrier, Finnair has returned 12 planes and laid off 2,400 people. Ryanair grounded 113 planes and got rid of 900 pilots for the moment and possibly 450 more in the coming months.

Norwegian airliner, ASA has completely stopped its long-haul operations and the Boeing 787s in its fleet have been returned to the lessors.
Scandinavian airline, SAS has returned 14 planes and fired 520 pilots and the Scandinavian states are said to be studying a plan to liquidate Norwegian and SAS to rebuild a new company from their ashes.

In the Middle East, Ethihad cancelled 18 orders for A350, grounds 10 A380 and 10 Boeing 787 and laid off 720 staff.
Emirates grounded 38 Airbus A380s and cancelled all orders for the Boeing 777x (150 aircraft, the largest order for this type) and over 56 of the airline’s personnel are to be refitted. They “invite” all employees over 56 to retired
Hungarian carrier, Wizzair has returned 32 A320s and laid off 1,200 people, including 200 pilots, another wave of 430 layoffs planned in the coming months and remaining employees would see their wages reduced by 30 per cent.

Also IAG (British Airways’ parent company) has abandoned the takeover of Air Europa (and will pay €40 million compensation for that), while IAG (Iberia) grounded 56 planes; IAG (British Airways) grounds 34 planes and everyone over 58 years has been asked to retire.
THISDAY also gathered that currently, 60 new aircraft stored at Airbus with no buyers in sight (order cancellations) including 18 A350s.
But in Nigeria a new airline, United Nigeria Airlines took to the sky last month and Green Africa Airways, NG Eagle and Binani Air are queuing for Air Operator Certificate (AON).

However, travel expert and organiser of Akwaaba African Travel Market, Ambassador Ikechi Uko told THISDAY that what Nigeria needs is not necessarily new airlines but more aircraft, noting that what Nigerian travellers need are more aircraft seats, not airlines because if only two airlines provide the needed seats it would even serve the country better than have many airlines because when there are more airlines they would jostle for passengers and eventually destroy the market value.

“Currently Nigeria is experiencing low capacity. There are no enough aircraft seats to meet the demand of passengers. I wanted to go to Abuja and I learnt that there are no seats. More Nigerians want to travel by air because road travel is not safe. I just heard that there was security threat on the Lagos-Benin road today (Wednesday) and every motorist stopped and parked his car on the road. No one wanted to move because no one knew what was ahead. So many people would want to fly, which is the most reliable and safest means of travel that is also the fastest,” Ambassador Uko said.

THISDAY learnt that presently Nigerian airlines’ fleet is depleted. Many aircraft have been ferried overseas for maintenance and due to the lockdown many Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) facilities were shut down for a long time due to COVID-19 lockdown so they were behind in their maintenance schedule for aircraft delivery to airlines.