London to Lagos on British Airways is more expensive than flying from Lagos to Melbourne.
A national airline for Nigeria is an urgent project that is capable of providing
profitability and wider economic benefits, thinks Lucky George, executive director at the African Travel Commission.
“A country of 200 million people needs its own national airline,” says George. “We should not be at the mercy of foreign airlines.”
Nigeria has one of the world’s largest diasporas, which would allow, passenger volume and profitability.
“As a Nigerian, I want to fly on a Nigerian airline. There’s no way that a national airline would fail”, Lucky added.
Nigeria Air was launched as the official Nigerian airline in 1971 and collapsed in 2003. Some analysts have argued that the private sector is better placed to address the country’s aviation problem.
The Nigeria Air project was launched in 2018. Ethiopian Airlines agreed to a 51/49% partnership. This was agreed with the Nigerian government in 2022 but failed to start by the October 2023 deadline.
“Private operators don’t have the wherewithal and capacity to compete” with major international airlines”, Lucky explains. “It’s a nonstarter. A national airline would have better security compared to a private carrier.”
“Taking a Nigerian private-sector flight from Lagos to London would leave me worried as to whether it still be operating for the return flight.
“The expertise required for a modern aviation industry can only be developed with national capital and leadership.” Lucky continued: “If we don’t have a national carrier, we don’t have these skills.”
Currently, Nigerians have to use US Dollars to pay for tickets, and having a national carrier would allow them to pay in local currency. Nigeria recently had problems providing foreign currency to foreign airlines, which resulted in Emirates Airlines stopping service to Lagos.
Airfares are too expensive. British Airways is charging UK 1692 for a one-way flight to London, compared with the most expensive flight ticket to Melbourne only UK 792.00
The ATC organization was originally set up in 1960 and promoted cooperation between Africa’s national tourism agencies. It was revived by George in 2021 as a non-profit organization and has 11 members including Nigeria, and Ghana where it is based.
The certification of the Nigeria Air venture has been delayed by legal challenges from private carriers represented by the Airline Operators of Nigeria. George is confident that the obstacles will be overcome. It will happen. The interest of Nigeria comes first”, he says.
South Africa would not have been able to market itself as a tourist destination without having a national carrier. Nigeria’s counterpart should not try to fly everywhere and should target major airports in Europe and the United States.
“Flying from Nigeria to London leads to wasted time and transit fees if one travels via Addis Ababa or Nairobi,” George explains.” However direct flights such as on British Airways are too expensive.”
The current proposed venture with Ethiopian Airlines is not the best way forward and creates the danger that routes will be skewed to ensure transit via Addis Ababa.
The airline, he argues, should be 100% Nigerian-owned with the excellent leadership hired globally to ensure that the operation is run as a business and free of political interference.