Nigeria’s poor and imbalanced Bilateral Air Service Agreement (BASA) has been exposed after the Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) clashed with United Arab Emirate’s giant carrier, Emirates Airline over multiple entries granted the foreign airline by the Nigerian government as pilgrimage travels pick up.
The AON said the Federal Government had granted Emirates additional flights into Abuja peaking the airline’s frequency up at four flights daily, against Nigeria’s airline, Air Peace, which was granted fewer number of flights on the same route, Abuja to Dubai for Hajj operation.
According to the AON, this approval is coming at a time when Nigerian Carrier, Air Peace, begun flights to Sharjah in the UAE operated with 100 per cent Nigerian pilots, cabin crew, engineers and dispatchers noting that the move sadly places the indigenous carrier at a competitive disadvantage, and robs the Nigerian economy, as well as heralds huge capital flight.
Emirates Airline has, however, denied that it was granted additional privileges, insisting it only increased its frequency to meet up with lifting the large number of pilgrims on the mission to Mecca.
At the launch of Air Peace flights to UAE, AON appealed to the federal government to stand tall in aero politics to support Air Peace, otherwise it will end up the same way as others such as Bellview, Arik Air and Medview that went before it as they were unable to play in the wild and aggressive field of international aero politics.
“The additional double daily flights given to Emirates, a highly subsidised airline is not necessary at this time as statistics show that half of the flights out of Abuja are half empty and the fact that the Emirati airlines already have an unfair trade advantage of 150 flights monthly out of Nigeria; as against 12 monthly flights for Nigerian airlines that should have been allowed to stabilize and grow its operations into the UAE to a level where the airline can compete favourably on the route.
“We would therefore like to use this medium to call on the government to review all existing BASAs to re-address the unfair trade advantage given to foreign airlines against Nigerian airlines,” said Capt. Nogie Meggison, AON Chairman.
“This will go a long way to safeguard the Nigerian economy from continued plundering of our resources, preserve the lively hood of workers in the aviation sector, create jobs for our many unemployed youths, promote technology transfer, and significantly reduce capital flight in line with the vision of the President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration,” Meggison noted.
Emirates according to the AON as of today, operates two daily flights out of Lagos and two daily flights out of Abuja. Etihad, from the same country, also operates daily flights out of Lagos as well.
This translates to five flights daily and a total of 150 flights per month from UAE against a Nigerian carrier that only just started operating three flights weekly (12 flights monthly into UAE).
“This is a colossal plundering of the Nigerian economy through capital flight and a huge loss of Nigerian jobs,” the AON boss lamented.
We didn’t increase scheduled flights from Nigeria — Emirates
Meanwhile, Emirates has denied that it increased scheduled flight services to Abuja or Lagos.
Making its clarification in another statement by the airline, the management of Emirates denied AON’s position, saying, “We only operated extra flights to Abuja and Lagos for a very limited period, for the sole purpose of serving Nigerian pilgrims traveling to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for Hajj.”
In a statement, the airline added, “Some detractors like to claim that Emirates receives government subsidies and therefore represents unfair competition, but these allegations are patently false, and we have repeatedly debunked these myths over the years.”
Nigerian govt must wake up — Aviation investor
Reacting to the development, Gbenga Olowo, President of the Aviation Roundtable advised the federal government to start influencing things around the nation’s airlines’ international operations.
Olowo also called for a solid policy thrust, stable regulatory framework, stable political environment to ensure the aviation sub sector is strengthened.
He said, “Well, aero-politics is politics, and if you look at the grammar of politics, the grammar of politics basically address the area of influence which is very important in politics. Our people in government especially the ministry of aviation, and the civil aviation authority must be able to influence a lot of things with our carriers. When our carriers approach them, they must not see them as a disruption.
“For instance, if we give birth to a national carrier tomorrow, and the ministry or the CAA do not follow the objective to the letter, and they just say you are designated to China or to London without influencing the way things happen at the other end with government influence, that airline won’t survive.”
Olowo who is also CEO, Sabre, a global distribution system (GDS) urged the federal government to exert power to protect local airlines that now operate to other countries.
“We heard during the conference the slot that Nigeria Airways was using, how Arik couldn’t get it on time. Arik as a carrier is a player coming to compete with their own carrier, so there will be unseen resistance, despite what you call anti-competitive rule. But the influence of our government is vital.
“Both power and authority we should not throw it away in politics. What is power? When ADC was grounded in London our former president Abacha grounded British Airways here, that is power and authority. So, basically politics is politics and the elements of politics we must look at it even in business,” he stressed.