Narrow-body aircraft as strategy for Nigeria’s airline industry recovery


Narrow-body aircraft like Embraer 195-E2, Embraer 147, ATR aircraft series, Bombardier Q400 among other smaller aircraft sizes are set to spearhead Nigeria’s airline industry’s recovery over the next decade as airlines adjust their fleets and operating models for a squeezed travel market.

The serious impact of COVD-19 is forcing Nigerian airlines to re-strategise as big is no longer desirable to them. The country’s airlines have taken the decision to reduce their fleet size or change entirely their business model to smaller and efficient airplanes.

Elsewhere, the consultancy’s Global Fleet MRO Forecast 2021-2031 said that by 2031, the global aviation fleet will be smaller than once projected because of the impact of COVID-19, and a decade of smaller fleets will mean constrained growth and consolidation.

To underscore the new business idea, Nigeria’s biggest airline by fleet size, Air Peace took delivery of new Brazilian Embraer 195-E2 aircraft thus making the Nigerian carrier the first in African to acquire the latest aircraft.

Air Peace’s new Embraer plane

The carrier is the first African carrier to take delivery of the aircraft type out of the 13 firm orders with another 17 purchase right orders making a total of 30 Embraer planes being expected thus making the airline second to Lufthansa globally, which ordered for 35 of the same aircraft type.

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A new airline, Nigeria United Nigeria which plans to begin domestic flight services first quarter 2021 had decided to start with narrow-body Embaer 147, fuel efficient airplanes.

As the pandemic swept through the industry, many airlines were trying to sustain their daily operations as demand for passenger flights hit an all-time low from March, April and July 2020 and even in the New Year.

The situation has not significantly changed for the better up till now. While some carriers resorted to layoffs, operations’ down-scaling and restructuring of their business, major passenger airlines explored a new service – cargo transportation on passenger aircraft.

As airlines rationalise their fleets as part of their survival strategies, aviation expert who pleaded anonymity, said that narrow body and regional aircraft may become more important to their immediate recoveries.

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He disclosed that many of them are walking a tight rope with the prediction that only two airlines in Nigeria may survive the deadly effects of COVID-19, adding that Ibom Air has a great future with the type of aircraft they operate. It is a smart airline.


Ibom Air’s fleet of Embaer aircraft

While it uses the right size of airplanes, virtually all other carriers with B737 classics and few Next Generation (NG) aircraft could say Mayday to them.

According to the source, “The longest distance in Nigeria by air is one and half hours. In places like Europe, one and half hours distances are operated by trains, which is more economical. But, when you want to fly to such a distance in Europe, you use a turboprop aircraft. A CRJ900 aircraft is the same minute as a B737 in terms of speed and the fuel consumption is about 30 to 40 per cent less than bigger airplanes”.

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Overland Airways’ aircraft touches down at the Diori Hamani International Airport in Niamey, on October 3, 2018

“Leases on bigger and fuel guzzling airplanes do not make sense any longer. The lease rental on these aircraft is expensive and the reason the lease is expensive is because many Nigerians have violated the Cape Town Convention agreement which Nigeria is a signatory by refusing to release airplanes to their owners through litigations that tend to paint Nigeria as a risky country to do business with”.



Chief Executive Officer of Ropeways Limited and a former Managing Director of Virgin Nigeria, Capt. Dapo Olumide, said airlines’ problems are self-inflicted with use of the wrong type of aircraft for domestic operations.

He predicted that by the end of this year, there is the likelihood that fewer airlines would still be in operation because of their overhead and other associated costs.

Wole Shadare