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‘Why foreign airlines should not operate domestic flights’

There are mixed feelings in the aviation sector over the threat by the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Aviation, Smart Adeyemi, to invite foreign…

There are mixed feelings in the aviation sector over the threat by the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Aviation, Smart Adeyemi, to invite foreign airlines to operate domestic flights in view of the recent spate of flight delays by the domestic carriers.

Sen Adeyemi and his committee members, who were on an oversight visit to the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), threatened that the National Assembly might be forced to invite foreign airlines if the domestic carriers were unable to serve local passengers.

He said his committee in the Senate and that of the House of Representatives had made up their minds to put in place necessary instruments that would empower the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) to grant operating license to any foreign airline that was willing and able to deliver on prompt and safe airlifting of Nigerians to all their domestic destinations.

The Chairman of the House Committee on Aviation, Hon Nnaji Nnolim, on his part, said the persistent flight delays were no longer acceptable as they affected businesses and the socio-economic well-being of the people.

Daily Trust reports that during the joint oversight of both the Senate and the House of Representatives aviation committees, the members lamented the incessant flight delays, narrating how they almost missed their appointments in Lagos, and even left many people behind in Abuja scrambling to come to Lagos.

However, Sen Adeyemi’s statement is drawing the ire of operators and some stakeholders in the aviation sector who see his suggestion as not only unrealistic but another attempt at opening up the Nigerian sky for exploitation.

The General Secretary of Aviation Roundtable and Safety Initiative, Group Capt John Ojikutu (Rtd), warned against the idea of foreign airlines encroaching on the domestic market, saying such idea would kill the domestic airlines.

Daily Trust further reports that there are no fewer than 10 domestic airlines operating locally, including Air Peace, Arik Air, Overland, Dana Air, Ibom Air, Max Air, Azman Air, Green Africa and United Nigeria.

Reports indicate that over 58 per cent of flights operated last year were delayed amid rising complaints from members of the flying public.

But Capt Ojikutu said despite that, inviting foreign airlines to operate local flights was not the solution.

In a message to the Sen Adeyemi, Capt Ojikutu said, “If the media is right, please don’t ever give any thought to foreign airlines encroaching into the domestic routes; you will kill the domestic airlines.

“I am an advocate of restricting each foreign airline to either Lagos or Abuja and not Lagos and Abuja, but may go to any other airport in the alternative geographical area.

“However, the airline can make as many frequencies as it wishes per day to the airports of its choice. This is the only way you can create market for the domestic airlines that cannot compete effectively with the foreign airlines on the international routes.

“What we should emphasise to the foreign airlines is to ensure that they have interlining with the domestic airlines for the sake of inbound and outbound connecting passengers on their flights. Again, distinguished senator and house members, don’t open the domestic routes to the foreign airlines except you want to kill the domestic airlines.”

As tongues continue to wag over the incessant flight delays, the Director General of, Capt Musa Nuhu, vowed to get the schedules of all operating airlines to be sure they were not selling tickets beyond what their capacities.

However, stakeholders say the only challenge is for the operators and the public to have an understanding on how to handle the situation when natural circumstances warranting flight delays or cancellation occur.

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