From Suleiman Idris, Lagos
The Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) yesterday urged the federal government to put it weight behind Nigerian carriers that ventures into intercontinental flight operations in order to curb the lopsided nature of aeropolitics skew towards Nigerian airlines.
The operators described the policy of the President, Muhammadu Buhari and the Federal Ministry of Transport (Aviation) for moving the Nigerian aviation sector to the next level as commendable by assisting Nigerian airline, Air Peace to start international flights into Dubai recently.
The airline became the fourth that made attempt into the international market as many of the airlines that went before them collapsed due mainly to aeropolitics which is 85% the role of government to play.
The umbrella body of operating airline in the country affirmed that foreign carriers dominate 100% of the Nigerian sky with capital flight of about $3bn.
“While we thank the Federal Government for its role in making this feat possible, it is instructive to note that this next level requires strong government support as Air Peace has become one of the pillars to the building of our nation’s economy” AON Chairman, Sir Nogie Meggison told reporters in Lagos.
AON also call on the Federal Government to put its full weight behind Air Peace and give the carrier all the support it requires to succeed on the route in the face of stiff competition and aero politics which the carrier will face in the near future.
“Air Peace has taken a bold step and they should be encouraged by Nigerians. The airline’s maiden flight to Dubai means more jobs for our Nigerian youths; it means jobs for over 600 unemployed Nigerian pilots; it means hope for our various Aviation Training Academies at NCAT, Zaria, International Aviation College, Ilorin and the International Helicopter Flying School, Enugu.
“It also means more travel choices for Nigerian travellers at affordable rates; it means more contribution to the Nigerian economy and GDP; it means increased growth for the Nigerian aviation sector; it means the transfer of technology and technical expertise; and it also means a reduction in capital flight from the country by foreign airlines.
Government therefore needs to rally round Air Peace as a proud Nigerian operator and give the airline all the support to succeed,” Sir Meggison stressed.
Speaking further, the AON Chairman remarked that the issue of Aero Politics has been the bane of operators like Bellview that was frustrated out of the India market; Arik Air that was given a distant parking bay in Dubai at the far end of the terminal; Medview who were frustrated out of the London route by sheer regulatory technicalities and so called safety deficiencies, unfair slot allocation, exorbitant airport charges, levies and fees, and all forms of excuses to name a few which are mainly to discredit the airline as a means of edging them out of the route in order to get rid of the competition the carrier posed to their own local operators on the route and to protect their own.
Meggison called on the Federal Government not to leave Air Peace but to stand tall with Nigerian Airlines and bring the full weight of its political machinery and influence behind Air Peace and effectively protect the airline from all forms of Aero Politics and regulatory biases that may arise during the course of the airline’s operations into various international destinations.
He also used the opportunity to call on the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) to urgently provide Air Peace with a prominent space for its Private Lounge on the air side at the Murtala Muhammad International Airport (MMIA) designed in Air Peace colours to show that this is a Nigerian Flag Carrier base similar to what obtains in Frankfort with Lufthansa; Heathrow with British Airways; and Dubai with Emirates.