Will Nigeria Air succeed where others failed?

Posted by News Express | 21 July 2018 | 2,076 times

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The Nigerian government is making its third attempt at a national carrier with operations expected to launch in December 2018.

Officially named Nigeria Air, the airline's logo and livery were unveiled at the Farnborough Air Show in London to mixed reactions at home.

The federal government will own just 5% of the airline in a public-private partnership proposal designed to allow for professional management and avoid previous mistakes.

The Nigerian government estimates that initial capital for the airline will range between $150m (£115m) and $300m in the first few years of operation though the private sector partner has not been identified yet.

"This will be a national carrier that is private sector led and driven. It is a business, not a social service," Nigerian Minister of State for Aviation Hadi Sirika said.

"Government will not be involved in running it or deciding who runs it. The investors will have full responsibility for this."

'Improve infrastructure'

The original Nigerian Airways collapsed 15 years ago and a 2004 joint venture with billionaire Richard Branson named Virgin Nigeria shut down shortly after he pulled out five years later because of mismanagement.

Nigeria Air will take off with 15 leased aircraft in December but there are plans to own 30 planes within three to four years flying to 81 domestic, regional and international destinations.

While many on social media celebrated the return of the carrier whose logo is a stylised eagle with Nigerian flag colours, other saw it as "propaganda" ahead of the 2019 presidential election.

Aviation analyst Aderoju Omololu is cautiously optimistic that the the airline can be successful if it grows gradually and strategically and engages industry experts in its management.

"The airline should be allowed to operate as a fully private entity," she told the BBC in an email.

Nigeria's main Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos currently handles eight million passengers annually while Abuja's Nnamdi Azikiwe serves five million, several times over their capacity.

Some Nigerians say the government should focus on overhauling outdated aviation industry infrastructure instead of investing in a new airline.

'Vanity projects'

The reboot of the Nigerian flag carrier follows similar actions by the governments of Uganda and Tanzania as well as several other countries.

Uganda Airlines just ordered four new Bombardier CRJ 900 aircraft as well as two Airbus A330neo planes in a two-day shopping spree at Farnborough.

The revived Ugandan national carrier is due to return to the skies in April 2019, exactly 18 years after its debt-ridden predecessor was liquidated.

Neighbouring Air Tanzania is also flying again and expects to kick off its first cross-continental flight to Mumbai in September after it recently took delivery of a Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

Africa's largest airline by revenue and profit, Ethiopian Airlines, made $2.7bn in revenue in the 2016/2017 financial year and carried nine million passengers.

Though fully government owned, a professional management with complete control has allowed it to turn its Addis Ababa base into a Dubai-like hub for 70 routes.

The Ethiopian national carrier, which already owns a minority stake in Malawi Airlines, has announced plans to help re-launch Zambia's equivalent, a new airline in Mozambique as well as talks for smaller offshoots in Djibouti, Chad, and Equatorial Guinea. (BBC)

Source: News Express

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