The National Carrier Project

Editorial

Many aviation analysts and stakeholders have posited that having a national carrier could be to the country’s advantage, if such an airline is properly managed, and not allowed to suffer the fate of the liquidated Nigeria Airways.

Those clamoring for another truly national airline are quick to refer to the success story of Kenya Airways, Ethiopian Airline, Egypt Air and South African Airways, which in Africa have all grown a reputation of being quite formidable and efficient airlines. And being convinced that despite the odds, there was still a chance for its success if a national carrier was established, Stella Oduah, the former Aviation Minister,  tried to make it a reality.

Stella did not succeed. But it might not be a bad idea for the new minister, Osita Chidoka, to reconsider the prospects of establishing another national carrier. This can be achieved by government having a clear-cut idea of what it wants from the establishment of the airline from inception, and leaning on a proper legal framework to kick start the process.

Factors that led to the collapse of Nigeria Airways have been identified by experts. These include large scale corruption, lack of good business model, and rampant disregard for established, standard regulations. Undue interference by ministers and government officials, internal politics and power-play also contributed to the demise of Nigeria Airways. Reports, documents and research works abound for the new minister to peruse in deciding how best to structure the running of the national carrier if established.

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The past mistakes should serve as illumination towards setting up a more viable airline like those that have brought pride to other African nations. While the idea of the establishment of a national carrier has gotten its share of knocks from some quarters, the fact remains that Nigerian flag carrier airlines have also not done well due to myopic business models, crippling debts, multiple taxation and other factors.

Working out a more efficient model for a new national carrier will ensure its success from the start, which would help in the reduction of the huge capital flight occasioned by the dominance of mega carriers like British Airways, Qatar Airways, Delta and United Airlines, among others.

The truth remains that Nigerian airlines lack the capacity to exploit the existing Bilateral Air Service Agreements between the country and other foreign countries to the fullest. Towards the establishment of a national carrier, nothing stops Nigeria from adopting the model of Ethiopian Airline which currently flies to 82 international destinations across five continents, with over 200 daily flights operating young and modern fleet. Getting to such heights will not be a sudden leap. Knowing it can be done, with an example to follow, makes the task achievable.

 The emphasis on safety should always be paramount for the new minister. By keeping our airspace safe, he would have done his duty eventually. But the establishment of a National Carrier would be taking things a notch higher considering the inherent prospects of huge employment opportunities and a boost in the tourism industry which is usually encouraged by robust and top rated flight services globally.