Stakeholders Decry Influx of Foreign Airlines at Nigerian Airports, Says it Will Stifle Growth of Domestic Airlines

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Amos Akpan

Chinedu Eze

Operators and other stakeholders in the aviation industry have cried out against the continued designation of international airlines to multiple airports in Nigeria, saying that it will stifle the growth of domestic carriers.

Many foreign carriers fly to more than one international airport in Nigeria and industry analysts believe the development is injurious to growth of Nigerian airlines and advised the federal government to introduce a policy that would make it compulsory for foreign airlines to partner with local airlines to take the passengers brought into the country farther.

The stakeholders argued that in the last two years more airlines have joined the market and they would want to expand their operations to regional and international destinations, but may not be able to compete if government approve foreign operators to serve more than one airport in the country.

The stakeholders also said that other countries in Africa and elsewhere make it as condition for operation; that foreign airlines must partner with local airlines.

The stakeholders were reacting to the report that the federal government granted Doha based Qatar airways two more destinations in Nigeria, which means that the airline would operate to Lagos, Abuja, Kano and Port Harcourt.
On its official social media handle, Qatar Airways said it has been given approval by the Nigerian government to fly into Port Harcourt and Kano airports.

“We welcome Kano and Port Harcourt in Nigeria to our growing African network, with flights starting early March 2022, via Abuja to Doha and onwards to over 140 destinations.”

Lufthansa, Air France, British Airways and others operate to more than one airport in Nigerian.
The Managing Director of Flight and Logistics Solutions Limited, Amos Akpan told THISDAY that it was surprising that government could at this time designate foreign airlines to many airports in the country, when there is collective determination to grow domestic airlines.

“I cannot situate within Nigeria’s aviation development program the grant of entry to Qatar airways into Kano and Port Harcourt in addition to existing flight frequencies into Abuja and Lagos. I have read and heard from the Minister and the Director General of NCAA that Nigeria wants to grow Nigerian domestic operators, which will encourage investment in the sector. This decision will not help the growth of domestic operators; I therefore, do not foresee the benefits to our domestic operators.

“Instead, it will expand the business and grow the economy of Qatar Airways in Nigeria. This will in turn put pressure on demand for foreign exchange because of demand to repatriate funds. Except for Doha, how many other airports in Qatar can Air Peace or Azman Air be designated into? We really need to focus on actions to develop our aviation industry. We should readdress our bilateral air services agreements. We should encourage domestic operators to distribute within Nigeria for international operators,” Akpan said.

He also remarked that the excuse that Nigerian domestic operators cannot synchronize with international operations is false because most airlines in Nigeria have satisfactorily undergone the IATA operations specifications audit (IOSA) required as world standard for operators by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).

“For us, it is the matter of political will to grow our industry. The increased frequencies by domestic operators from distribution of connecting traffic for international flights will increase capacity to acquire equipment, recruit and train Nigerian youths,” Akpan added.

Also the Secretary General of Aviation Round Table (ART) and the former Commandant of MMIA, Group Captain John Ojikutu (retd) told THISDAY that giving foreign airlines more than two airports in Nigeria is to expose them into the domestic routes and therefore into the domestic markets of the domestic airlines.

“For me, it is either Lagos or Abuja and not Lagos and Abuja and any other among Port Harcourt, Kano and Enugu (outside the geographical area of the first choice of Lagos and Abuja) to any foreign airline. However, the foreign airlines can be allowed as many frequencies as it wishes per day to the choice airports. Through interlining, the domestic airlines can be assured of improved domestic markets by distributing international passengers for connection with these foreign airlines.

Over the years aviation industry stakeholders have campaigned against multiple designation because it gives foreign airlines the opportunity to operate into many airports in the country and thereby deny local carriers the opportunity to airlift passengers from different airports to one or two airports designated only for international operations.

For example, if Turkish Airlines were designated to land only at the Abuja airport, it would partner with local airlines to bring passengers to it from the other airports of the country. Over time, the partnership may mature into the local airline selling ticket for the foreign carrier and exchanging technical personnel and training.

However, the Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika had said at the beginning of his tenure as Minister that he believes that every region in the country should have an international airport so that travellers would spend less amount of money travelling to Lagos or Abuja to connect flight to their international destinations.

“We chose to make Enugu, Port Harcourt and Kano airports international airports. The stakeholders wanted us to only make Abuja and Lagos airport international airports and use smaller aircraft to take the passengers and ferry them to their locations. I am a policy maker and I look at the haves and the have-nots. It will cost an average business man about one thousand dollars to book hotel and board flights to come down to these airports from Lagos and Abuja. We will serve you where you are,” Sirika had said.