Easing air transport with Spring Alliance

JULIANA AJAYI writes on what air passengers stand to gain, as no fewer than six airlines form Spring Alliance in Nigeria

When Dana Airline and Ibom Airline signed a codeshare agreement in May 2021 at the Victor Attah International Airport in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, the feat was described as the first of its kind among Nigerian airlines. It was rightly described so, knowing well that a codeshare agreement allows two airlines to share flight numbers by putting a designator code on a flight by the other airline.

The United States Department of Transportation defines a codeshare agreement as a marketing arrangement in which an airline places its designator code on a flight operated by another airline, and sells tickets for that flight. 

With the recent alliance formed by six airlines in Nigeria, stakeholders have described it as a timely and efficient decision, which would benefit the customers ultimately. For quite a while, flight delays and cancellations have got the flying public questioning the seriousness of the Nigerian aviation industry. Overtime, flight delays became a normal thing anyone would expect when preparing for a flight within the country. 

With the alliance formed by six airlines in Nigeria, hope may have been restored in the Nigeria aviation industry to not only work efficiently but also exceed expectations. 

In view of this, not only would flight delays be minimised, customers will also enjoy the benefits that accompany alliances. 

Not only is this unique in its form, it is an alliance, which consists of Nigerian airlines only. For instance, the Star Alliance has about 26 members, including Air India, Ethiopian Airlines, Lufthansa, South African Airways, Scandinavian Airlines and United Airlines. Also, One World, which was founded in 1999, consists of American Airlines, Qantas, Royal Jordanian, Qatar Airways, Japan Airlines, Malaysia Airlines and other foreign airlines. Not to mention Sky team, which has Air Europa, Air France, Delta Air Lines, Kenya Airways, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Czech Airlines and many others. 

The Chairman of Air Peace, Allen Onyema, was quoted in a recent report as saying, “In the aviation world, we have so many alliances that airlines key into. We have the Star Alliance, One World and several others. Airlines decide to key into those alliances for the benefit of both the passengers and the airlines themselves.

“So, today, in Nigeria, March 8, 2022, some airlines in Nigeria notably, Air Peace, Azman Air, Arik Air, Aero Contractors, Max Air and United Nigeria have decided to come together to form what we call the Spring Alliance.”

Onyema, who is also the Vice President of Airline Operators of Nigeria, explained that the alliance was formed so that the flying public could use the opportunities provided by the six airlines to fly.

“By this alliance, our passengers are protected whenever there is a problem with one airline. It is our response to the complaints of the flying public; so this alliance will enable us to satisfy them.

“But with this alliance and what we are going to be doing henceforth, the flying public will reap the benefit. For example, if Air Peace has a tech issue on any of its aircraft, the passengers of Air Peace need not to be delayed, if any member of this alliance is going to the same destination; all we need do is to move the passengers over to that other member of the alliance, at no further cost to passengers,” Onyema said. 

He also explained that the alliance would help the aviation industry in the sustainability of operations and the the flying public to experience seamless commuting whenever they choose to.

The Managing Director, Aero Contractors, Capt. Abdullahi Mahmood, described the formation of Spring Alliance as a historic move that prioritises the satisfaction of the passenger.

Complementing what Onyema said, he explained, “This is the first time something like this is happening in Nigeria’s aviation industry. You can see that the airline operators are fully committed to making sure that our passengers are satisfied. Like we say, for every challenge, you see an opportunity. Probably, this is the time that we have seen an opportunity for the airlines to come together, work together and have a healthy competition whereby at the end of the day, we make our passengers happy and safe.

“Safety is the number one priority, and this is what we stand for. Coming together, like my colleagues rightly said, you find out that all these delays are caused by problems that passengers do not know and we just carry them from one point to another on time and make sure that everything goes smoothly. We are asking passengers to give their utmost cooperation, as we are doing our best. It is a challenging situation we find ourselves in, but, yes, we are all in this together and we are hopefully coming out together.”

For the Chief Executive Officer, United Nigeria Airline, Obiora Okonkwo, “The Nigerian-scheduled operators are coming together to sign this all-important document. This, no doubt, will revolutionise the service and provision for the typical traveller in Nigeria. It is all about the passenger.

“There’s no doubt that Nigerian airlines are going through some situations, and part of the way to react to this is to have the passengers in mind. It is simply thinking out-of-the-box. We are not reinventing the wheel; we are just adopting what we have seen that has worked in other places, and it will surely work in Nigeria, so that the passengers going to the airport are more guaranteed that they will fly.”

Reacting to the development, the CEO of Mainstream Cargo, Seyi Adewale, said it was an alliance that is long overdue.

According to him, more of such collaborations and partnerships are anticipated in the aviation industry, as this would benefit their customers.

His words, “The newly-signed Spring Alliance is a welcome development and is long overdue. The present business environment may have forced this alliance not to be limited to high cost of aviation fuel, growing passenger demand for better services, improved regulatory oversight and so on with the goal to improve customer experience of the participating airlines. 

“Also, AON appears to have become a veritable platform to facilitate this type of cooperation and we expect more of such good initiatives from the association. We expect to have, at least, one other alliance. Two will even be better with new entrants adding to the pool of airlines. We congratulate Spring Alliance members for this landmark cooperation.”

An aviation analyst, who is also a member of Aviation Safety Roundtable, Olumide Ohunayo, is happy to see the Spring Alliance come on board.

“At least for the first time, they are now naming theirs. Before then, we had Dana and Ibom Air, Air Peace and United Nigeria Air having the alliance. Then we had Arik and Azman on Yola–Abuja and Yola–Lagos route having such alliances. At least for the first time, more than three airlines have come together to form an alliance,” he said.

Ohunayo also explained that “the alliance is quite different from the regular alliance that takes place among airlines,” affirming that customers would, primarily, benefit from it. 

“What we have seen there is not the commercial alliance we see in other aviation businesses, whereby there can be codeshare or interlining. Once you have your flight on that route and you cannot operate, one of the members of the alliance operating that flight will be able to airlift the passengers.

“What I am seeing here is the comfort of passengers. Improved convenience among their customers and taking inconvenience away from passengers who have suffered so much from flight delays and cancellations. The industry has been pushing for something like this. The important thing for us is to let passengers not be delayed unnecessarily or have their flights cancelled. I am happy for all the players,” he added.

Meanwhile, the Spokesperson for Arik Air, Ola Adebanji, said the modalities for the alliance were still being worked out, but that customers should expect better service.

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