AM EDITORIAL: Wobbling Local Airline Operators Should Partner To Succeed Or Leave The Scene

Globally, the performance of a scheduled airline is basically rated by the quality of services it provides.

Airline business by nature, is capital intensive and tasking. Because of this, investors are usually serious minded, focused, passionate, long-term plan oriented and open to sectoral team work. Underneath these qualities is the respect for and application of good corporate governance, without which an airline hardly survives a few years operation.

Nigeria has a wonderful record of high mortality rate for local airlines, even though the fault has not been entirely that of the airlines. History is supposed to be an advantage for intending, emerging and current scheduled commercial airline operators, as doing the same thing the same way and expecting a different result has been described as the interpretation of insanity.

To ensure sustained passenger comfort and patronage alongside improved bottomline, what operators do in sane climes and have done in recent years, is to embrace partnerships in terms of mergers and other forms of collaborations

In Nigeria, attempted joint passenger flights services have not worked due to orientation related and attitudinal problems as well as absence of other basic conducts expected of airline operators. The result is woeful failure in On-Time-Performance and reduction of the Nigerian public’s confidence in travelling with local airlines.

Although interline and code-share decisions are business decisions not to be initiated by regulatory fiat, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) as a regulatory body that has a buy-in to the concept, can use regulatory inducements and strategic policies to drive this achievement. The NCAA should also sustain its periodic economic audit of all domestic airlines to determine their state of health in compliance with Part 18 of ICAO SARPs.

Before embarking on any cooperation arrangement however, Nigerian airlines must conduct trainings for their staff on commercial agreements, negotiation, code-share, revenue management and so on. With this, airline staff will become more equipped to help passengers whenever they fall short of passenger expectations.

Code-share partnership among Nigerian local airlines will reduce their cost of operations, increase chances of profitability and attract more patronage from the travelling public who will develop more confidence based on reduction in frequent flights delays, cancellations and disappointments. It will help them improve quality of service and revenue generation and save the country frequent embarrassment from disappointed air traveler protests and sectoral media bashing.

Foreign airlines operating into Nigeria rarely consider partnership with a Nigeria local airline operator. Why? How can a reputable foreign airline with good corporate governance structure and reputation to protect, embark on a partnership with an airline that frequently disappoints passengers or leaves them stranded at the airport at the risk of hurting that partner foreign airline’s reputation? Besides, no foreign airline desires a carrier liability problem. For Nigeria’s local airlines to be attractive to foreign carriers for code-share partnerships, the operators must ensure they are IOSA compliant, develop attractive route networks, ensure product quality and develop commercial acumen. The few local airlines that are now IOSA compliant deserve commendation anyway.

The responsibility of building a set of reliable, functional and profitable local scheduled airlines in Nigeria is a collective one, just as perceptions about the sector’s failure rightly or wrongly outside Nigeria is a shared phenomenon for stakeholders. Therefore, it is time for intending or current operators that are not open to partnerships and the collective success of the sector to leave, and save the sector wastage of opportunity to write a positive history of local airlines in the current decade.

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Albinus Chiedu

Albinus Chiedu is a journalist, aviation media consultant, events management professional, and author. He has practiced journalism since 2000.

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