Airbus Makes Inroad Into Nigerian Market

The Nigerian aviation market is seeing a remarkable shift to other aircraft types. Airbus’ aggressive marketing strategy in Nigeria and Africa seems to be tilting the balance as innovation by Boeing and Airbus amid stiff rivalry is helping to reshape the travel industry. WOLE SHADARE writes

A look in

Aircraft maker, Airbus is making a significant inroad into Nigeria’s aviation market with some Nigerian operators looking at the direction of the European airplane maker for aircraft.

Although, the American aircraft maker, Boeing product still dominates the country’s airspace and it is so because over four decades, the B737 aircraft series had been the first choice of many operators. But times are changing. The country is really having a mixture of aircraft brands like Embraer, Bombardier, ATR series, MD 83, Boeing, and now Airbus.

Ibom Air’

The recent acquisition and order by Air Peace for two A320 aircraft, Ibom Air’s order for 10 A220 planes at the just concluded Dubai Airshow testify to a new shift to the Airbus brand of aircraft.

Airlines’ ‘scramble’ for Airbus

Just last week, Air Peace announced the acquisition of two Airbus A320 airliners to boost its domestic and regional operations, especially as Yuletide approaches.

Stanley Olisa, the airline’s spokesperson, said the two 162-seater aircraft, with 12 business class seats and 150 economy seats each, arrived at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, had already arrived.

“The two A320 will be deployed to boost both domestic and regional connectivity for our esteemed customers as the Yuletide draws near,” he said.

 He explained that the new planes will help the airline in its drive to meet the growing travel demand in the Nigerian and larger West African markets while it expects to take delivery of more Embraer 195-E2 airplanes.

“Air Peace is committed to reducing the air travel burden of Nigerians, and these new airplanes are a testament to this commitment,” Olisa said.

It is not as if no Nigerian airline has ever operated the Airbus airplanes on the regional routes. First Nation operated two A319-100 aircraft before it ceased operations.

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Fast-growing Ibom Air had early this year leased two A220-300s from Egypt Air ahead of plans to expand into the regional West African market.

The two A220s were wet-leased from Egypt Air would be returned to the North African country at the expiration of the lease agreement in June 2022.

Ibom Air would also dry-lease two aircraft to quickly replace the two that would be returned back to Egypt Air next year June and operate them till the first two out of the ten Airbus planes are delivered in 2023.

Ibom  Air wet-leased two new A220 jets from Egypt Air to bridge capacity gaps in Nigeria’s aviation sector.

The carrier chose to bridge the urgent capacity gap by wet-leasing the two jets as a stop-gap measure and on June 30, 2021.

The two Airbus A220 aircraft have already been deployed, bringing the much-needed capacity, more comfort, enhanced safety, and increased reliability to the domestic air travel market.

Both leased aircraft are the result of the airline’s decision to fast-track its fleet development plan in order to respond to a surge in passenger numbers, which stretched the capacity of its CRJ900 fleet to the maximum.

The arrival of both leased jets provided the much-needed capacity sought by its fast-increasing clientele.

Nigeria’s oldest airline, Aero Contractors in October acquired two Airbus 320 aircraft. The additional equipment was to help deepen fleet capacity and expand route networks nationwide according to the airline.

Nigeria’s start-up airline, Green Africa had initially wanted to buy 50 A220-300 aircraft for its operations. Airbus was aware of the strong intent of the carrier which was announced in 2019 at an Airbus forum in 2019 Toulouse, France which had Aviation Metric in attendance.

Green Africa, analysts say may have jettisoned the idea as the airline is operating with smaller and efficient ATR 72 aircraft with five average years.

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Green Africa backs off A220, Air Peace’s B737MAX on ‘hold’

Had Green Africa backed its plans with cash to get the airplanes, Nigeria’s airspace may have had more Airbus aircraft than the number of Boeing aircraft. But for COVID-19, the purchase never saw the light of day.

Also, had Air Peace not pushed or canceled its order for ten B737MAX, perhaps, Boeing may have consolidated its position in Nigeria as the number one aircraft of choice among the operators.

The B737MAX which was regarded at the time as the best-selling aircraft in the world suffered a huge setback following the crash involving Ethiopian Airlines on March 10, 2019, killing all 157 people aboard.

That was the second accident involving the aircraft type in less than five months after the October 2018 Lion Air Flight 610 crash in Indonesia.

It prompted a worldwide long-term grounding of the jet and investigation of how the aircraft was approved to service.

Expert’s view

Former Managing Director of Aero Contractors, Captain Ado Sanusi disclosed that the shift towards Airbus’ product was a result of the aggressive business marketing by the European planemaker having realized that they do not have a great footing in the continent of Africa.

Sanusi stated that the strategy seems to have paid off as many more airlines are tilting towards Airbus and possibly because of the pricing which he said maybe flexible for operators.

His words, “ I put the new crave for Airbus planes to great marketing strategy by the company in Africa and in the Nigerian market. You can even see that Ethiopian Airlines which traditional is an airline for the Boeing market is acquiring Airbus aircraft”.

“They have also studied the market that what the market needs is a smaller aircraft for regional of 100-120 seater as opposed to the big aircraft for regional markets”.

Airbus’ significant presence

Airbus has a significant presence throughout the region, employing more than 2,500 people across Morocco, Tunisia, South Africa, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and Oman. Airbus regional headquarters are in Dubai.

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Airbus’ products and services are widely recognised as being well-suited to Africa and the Middle East, yet the company’s commitment to the region goes beyond selling: Airbus pursues humanitarian objectives and also provides training and support by building local entities, creating jobs, and ultimately contributing to the economic development of the region.

In addition, Airbus identifies knowledge, skills, talent, and capacities that can be developed to address the global talent shortage.

 

First A320 Neo by Air Cairo

Firms raise the bar

Both Airbus and Boeing are regarded as the biggest aircraft makers in the world and have done so well for themselves to innovate and manufacture safer, comfortable, and luxury airplanes and by improving training and aviation development in the world.

The need to get a greater market share has pushed them beyond the limit of innovation as their rivalry dates back to over 40 years.

Meanwhile, Boeing has said that Africa’s strong, long-term growth prospects for commercial aviation  are closely tied to the continent’s projected 3% annual economic growth over the next 20 years,

This is coming as the aircraft giant, forecasts that Africa’s airlines would require 1,030 new airplanes by 2040 valued at $160 billion and aftermarket services such as manufacturing and repair worth $235 billion, enabling growth for air travel and economies across the continent.

An Airbus plant

Boeing shared the projection as part of the 2021 Commercial Market Outlook (CMO), the company’s long-term assessment of demand for commercial airplanes and services.

Last lines

Today, both companies are using every advantage they can find, driving innovation and efficiency. Boeing and Airbus each control around half of the global aircraft market, and analysts anticipate the booming travel industry needing as many as 39, 000 new planes over the next 20 years.

Wole Shadare