Why Nigerian carriers can’t compete with foreign airlines-Bankole

  • Seeks partnership to reposition airline business, says BASA not one-sided

 

The Managing Director of Medview Airlines, Muneer Bankole has advocated very strong partnership as one of the most reliable ways for the country’s carriers to be prosperous.

He however doubted the capacity of the country’s airlines to compete with their foreign counterparts because of the huge cooperation that exists amongst them.

He also stated that the environment the foreign carriers operate in is very different from what is obtained in Nigeria amid so many challenges the nation’s airlines are faced with.

Foreign airlines in flight

The airline chief who spoke at a media event at the weekend also talked about the alleged skewed Bilateral Air Services Agreement (BASA) saying nobody or country has stopped any Nigerian carrier from taking advantage of the numerous air pacts from flying to any nation.

He noted that most of the operators should come together, and pool their equipment to have the critical mass that would encourage them to be formidable and to be taken seriously.

“Nigerian airlines should come together. There is no sentiment about it. You have 17 aircraft, you have five aircraft, go and put heads together and discuss with a good mind, open your heart, let people know who is speaking so that Nigeria can have a drive of a new way forward.”

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Nigeria has BASA with more than 70 countries. While some of the countries have taken advantage of the agreement to operate in the country, Nigerian carriers are yet to reciprocate the agreement.

In the past, Virgin Nigeria, Arik, Bellview, and Medview had forayed into destinations like London, Dubai, Johannesburg, Angola, New York, and Jeddah but opted out of the routes considered to be lucrative due to their inability to compete to continuously strive to meet the safety requirements of those nations they flew into.

Although, not a few had defended the carriers, blaming their predicaments on the routes to aero-politics of those countries, some of these carriers are having a field day, spreading their wings in many parts of the country with multiple designations which are covered in the reviewed BASA pact they have with Nigeria.

It is only Air Peace that has shown resilience and determination to succeed where others have stumbled. However, Air Peace is finding it extremely difficult to sustain its operations in Dubai due to the face-off between Nigeria and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) that has seen the cessation of flight services between both nations.

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Again, Air Peace’s operations to Johannesburg are equally hampered by visa hiccups by South African authorities which have seriously reduced flight operations between South African Airways and Air Peace.

Air Peace operates in Israel, India, and some countries under the BASA pact. While Lufthansa, Air Maroc, Egypt Air, Ethiopian Airlines, Middle East Airlines, Sudan Air, RwandAir,  British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Air France, KLM, Delta, and United Airlines operate to Nigeria, no Nigerian carrier reciprocates either under BASA or ‘Open Skies’.

Bankole narrated Medview’s experience when it took the decision to operate to London Gatwick Airport, regarded as the second busiest airport in London instead of London Heathrow Airport.

 His words, “We are making a grave mistake. I will tell you honestly that all those who run into airlines telling people that BASA is one-sided, it is absolutely not correct. The reciprocity that we are talking about is nothing. I visited London, Virgin came up and everybody wanted to fly to Nigeria because this is where the market is. How many of our people want to go there? I repeat, I don’t know and I say it openly; we went there.”

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 “There are four airports in the UK and they are Heathrow, Gatwick, London City Airport, and Stansted Airports. We asked them, where do you want Medview to fly? I did a study and I chose Gatwick. They are calling on Medview to come back. The reason they are calling us to come back is because we opened up the business for the world to see and Nigerians were going and coming. The airport was nothing to write home about them and that is BASA for you. We are not going to say that somebody has 15 frequencies. Nobody has said to us that we should not come but you must meet their requirement.”

Wole Shadare