How Nigerian airports can be commercially viable-Bankole Bernard

The Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Finchglow Travels, Mr. Bankole Bernard has disputed the notion bandied by many people that some Nigerian airports are not viable, stressing that Nigeria has developed a flying culture that is making some hitherto ‘unviable’ airports to be commercially viable.

One major challenge faced by Nigerian airports is their inability to generate enough revenue to operate without funding from the government.

It is expected that airports should be able to generate enough revenue and also make a profit, but in Nigeria, only a few airports operated by the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) generate a high percentage of revenue.

It is the revenues generated by the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos, Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, Port-Harcourt International Airport, and the Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano that FAAN uses to maintain others.

Desperate to generate money from the airports, in 2016 the federal government directed that airports must be made viable and 25 percent of their earnings should be paid into government coffers.

But Bernard noted that as long the authorities are consciously not providing the basic facilities to make people want to fly, many aerodromes will remain the way they are.

Managing Director. Finchglow Group, Bankole Bernard

He wondered the country intends to make an airport viable when they only put on the generator when an aircraft approaches and the moment the aircraft lands the generators are put off again, adding that there is no way they would be made to be viable because of loss of communication and one that would make people avoid the airport.

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He said available statistics reveal that in the area of air travel recovery, Nigeria ranks the highest in the world, stressing that the figure is higher than the world and continent figures.

The Flinchglow Travel boss attributed the rise in domestic air traffic to insecurity in the country.

To him, a lot of people are resisting travelling by road and prefer to go by air because of the dire security situation in the country, adding that people have realized that travelling by air is a lot cheaper than by road because of the huge ransom one gets to pay to kidnappers in the event of a kidnap.

The second reason for the spike in air travel is the fact that people are beginning to appreciate time value.

“Why do I need to spend 24hrs on the road when I can do it in one hour? It is just for you to factor the cost into what you are doing. And people are beginning to think that way. People are beginning to appreciate their time and time is one thing that you can’t just afford to throw away”.

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He lauded the figure despite a paucity of funds by individuals, a poor economy, and a functional national carrier, noting, “This tells you that there is a culture. We have developed the flying culture and the number keeps increasing by the day. If the number is increasing by the day, it means it is a viable market”.

“Do you know that the Baltimore/Washington International (BWI) Thurgood Marshall Airport in the United States as small as it is, is an active airport? It is active because they are building more shops and renovating the place so people can enjoy the airport.

“They shouldn’t tell us our airports are not commercially viable. People like us that come in have even the opportunity to prove that these airports are viable. Akure airport for instance had only one airline going there before, but now about three airlines go there. Are you still saying the traffic is still the way it was? Let me remind you at this point that Nigerians are constantly developing the culture of flying”.

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He said there are quite a lot of things the country needs to do to make the airports commercially viable as long as there is a genuine interest from the government by concessioning the facilities to those that are passionate about the industry and not giving it to our friends to manage.

He admitted that the Ministry of Aviation has gone far with their concessioning of the four major, viable airports but wondered what happens to the rest and why there is silence over other airports.

His words, “Can we shift attention to the ones we think are not viable and take a look at them? And if they can make it viable, it becomes a different story. So, let them continue with their concessions, but the ones you think are not commercially viable can be looked into and we can see how they can be turned around by private sector people that can make it commercially viable”.

Wole Shadare