Under capacity hampers Nigerian carriers’ efficiency

  • 82 aircraft in service, others grounded
  • Operators lack critical mass to compete-Fadugba



Nigerian travelers and airlines are faced with a small number of aircraft in the country aviation industry. The under capacity by the local carriers has contributed immensely to flight delays and cancellations of flights as the carriers.

Aviation Metric learn’t that what is characteristic of these delays and cancellations in recent times is the inability of the airlines to deploy another aircraft whenever there is a hiccup in their operations. This, many industry observers said, is confirmation that airlines are suffering from under capacity.

In total, 77 airplanes by nine airlines in the country are currently in service while several others are grounded or undergoing lengthy maintenance procedures in and outside the country while others have been abandoned.

The breakdown shows that Air Peace described as the biggest airline in Nigeria and West Africa owns 38 aircraft out of which 31 are in service.


Some existing Nigerian airlines

The airline operates a diverse fleet of five A320 aircraft with some of them on lease and is fully operational’ ten B737 are also in service, three of the B737 are parked, two out of three B777 are in service, one parked, one Dornier 328, five Embraer-E2, Embraer 8 ERJ and three historic. In all, 31 aircraft are in service.

New Entrant, Green Africa Airways operates three ATR72-600 aircraft with an average age of 3.5 years.

Dana Air currently operates two B737 and three MD-83 airplanes but has a total of ten airplanes in total with five are not in service.

United Nigeria Airlines which clocked one year as an airline operates five aircraft; one A320 and four ERJ-145;  Max Air three B737 and three B747 that are parked in some airports.

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It is not too clear how many aircraft Overland Airways owns at the time of going to press. There are indications that the airline has about nine aircraft but unknown how many are in service and the number that is out of service.

Nigeria’s oldest airline that is under the receivership of the Assets Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) has Aero eight aircraft but currently operates five.

While Ibom Air has shown great promise since it started operations on June 7, 2019, operates two A220 which ages are 2-3 years, the carrier equally operates with four Bombardier CRJ-900 aircraft, making a total of six aircraft operated by the carrier, Arik Air which is also under the receivership of AMCON has 14 aircraft.

Four of Arik’s aircraft are parked and undergoing maintenance while ten are said to be in service.

The record shows that Azman has seven aircraft. Five of the seven comprise one fuel-guzzling A340 and four B737 aircraft.

This brings the total number of scheduled aircraft in service in Nigeria to 82; a number said to be grossly inadequate for the air traffic particularly during Yuletide and other peak periods.

Many of the time, many aircraft engines are hit by birds with the prevalence of bird strikes in many of the airports. The situation forces airlines to take the aircraft out of service for a long time, depending on how quickly the operator is able to import spare parts if they do not have the spares in store.

 Aviation security consultant and Secretary-General of Aviation Safety Round Table Initiative, Group Captain John Ojikutu told our correspondent that airlines are operating small, each one having few aircraft, and canvassed for the merger of the airlines in order to have the economy of scale.

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He noted that in situations where they cannot merge they could interline and help themselves through such cooperation.

His words, “If the airlines cannot merge as has been suggested and advised for corporate governance, they should be considerate to find a ‘meeting point’ for passengers protection and comfort in-flight connectivity.

It makes no economic sense for two airlines to check-in passengers with low load factors on the same route to the same destination. It is a better economic sense for one to agree to drop its passengers to the other at an agreed price and save itself further operational costs on fuel consumption, air navigational, landing and parking at the destination, ground handling at the destination, etc. Such cooperation among airlines will reduce unnecessary delays and cancellations except those that are caused by or for safety and technical reasons,” Ojikutu said.

To show how pressed the airlines are to increase capacity, Ibom Air and Overland at the just concluded Dubai Air Show made massive orders for brand new airplanes.

The Akwa Ibom-owned airline signed an agreement with Airbus for the purchase of ten A220 aircraft. The order of the ten A220 according to the carrier is in line with the airline’s aggressive growth plan which will see it expand its footprints into new domestic routes and regional routes.

Embraer and Overland Airways at the same event signed a firm order for three new E175 aircraft, plus three purchase rights for the same aircraft model.

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The company said in the 88- seat aircraft, with premium-class cabin configuration, will be delivered from 2023.

The deal is worth $ 299.4 million at a list price with all purchase rights being exercised.

Air Peace on the other has begun to take delivery of 13 of its state-of-the-art Embraer 195-E5 aircraft. Five of the aircraft had already been delivered by the planemaker as the rest would arrive this year and next year.

Chief Executive Officer, African Aviation Services and President, African Business Aviation Association (ABAA), Nick Fadugba, remarked that the average fleet size of airlines in Nigeria is about a maximum of 10 aircraft and such airlines want to compete with British Airways which has over 400 aircraft, noting that Delta Air Lines has over 500 aircraft even Ethiopian airlines has a 110 aircraft.


Aircraft positioning for take-off

“So how can small airlines compete? And I am not being disrespectful, by the way; the airlines I am not talking about is fleet size, I am not talking about commitment to the industry, but I want to be realistic because this industry is cut-throat.

“If you don’t have a critical mass in terms of size, in terms of good management, in terms of fleet, in terms of a good network, it is very hard to succeed.

“So we have the market in Nigeria, we are very fortunate but the fact is that our airlines are at the moment not of the size that can compete effectively against the big airlines coming into Nigeria.”

Wole Shadare