Ibom Air set to become largest operator of CRJ in Africa
The country’s aviation sector may soon record another history as Ibom Air, a new entrant into Nigeria’s domestic airline scene may soon become the largest operator of CRJ aircraft type on the continent.
The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the new airline, Mr George Uriesi while speaking with aviation journalists at the inaugural flight of Ibom Air to the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos, while describing the business plan of the airline as very robust, hinted of the plan of the airline to acquire ten aircraft in its fleet.
While the airline is starting with three aircraft, the fourth one is expected to join in August just as the fifth one will land in Nigeria in the first quarter of of 2020.
“We are going to have the biggest CRJ900 on the continent. The fourth one will come in in August. Against numbers, the fifth aeroplane comes in the first quarter of 2020. But if the numbers are achieved before then, then we can bring it forward. It is going to be organic expansion against the numbers over the next three years. There are indications that it is going to be faster than slower”, the CEO declared.
Speaking on what motivated the Akwa Ibom State government to set invest in airline business, Uriesi said: “With respect to Akwa Ibom government, motivation to set up an airline is part of the big picture that they have. They have built an airport. They have built an MRO. I call it the tripod of investment with an airline.
The intention is to make Akwa Ibom destination of choice for Nigerians and those visiting Nigeria. The airline is a key step in firming that tripod. Because of the airline now, the MRO will very soon become established properly.
The airline is designed to be very well run. It is not a government parastatal”.
On the status of the airline, the CEO said the airline will be run on a private sector in which the state is absolutely not involved. “It is a robust business plan. The airline is being run like a private airline and because there is a gap in the industry. There is a serious gap in the industry that welcomes a game changer and the airline would like to position itself as a game changer providing a world class service, providing the three key things that are missing in the industry. The proposition is schedule reliability, on-time departures and superior customer service. Nigerians can plan against our schedule. Secondly, if we are leaving at 7am, we are leaving at 7am. The third is superior customer service when you interact with us. We believe that we are airline that provide this tripod of services to the passengers.”
Asked if the airline management planned to expand operations beyond the shores of Nigeria, Uriesi retorted: “Our vision is to be a world class regional African airline. We don’t have any ambition for long haul at all. We will settle in the country and after a while we will go into the region. We want to model ourselves around Comair of South Africa. They have been in existence for about 75 years. They have been profitable for 72 of their 75 years. They are such a world class airline that British Airways has put their livery on it. They operate franchise for British Airways. They have no ambition to go anywhere other than Southern Africa. That is the type of model we are after.”
For the director of engineering in the airline, Mr Lookman Animashaun, the airline is not taking lightly the issue of maintenance as he stated that Ibom Air has a fleet maintenance unit, which has engaged very young and talented Nigerian engineers already trained to familiarize with the CRJ aircraft type.
His words:”Initially, we have a foreign company that positioned people here to maintain. At the same time, we are investing on maintenance. At the moment we have sent 11 people for training for the Bombardier course on the CRJ900. We just graduated fresh people last week”.
Though, Animashaun while agreeing that there was shortage of CRJ aircraft engineers in the country presently, but hinted that the airline has in advance trained over 20 young Nigerian engineers.