TO say the country’s domestic airlines are in disarray will be an understatement and to say that they are not getting along with the realities confronting the sector which are greatly creating uncertainties and heating the sector may again not be an exaggeration.
Ordinarily, the domestic carriers should be found to be at the fore front of struggles that will reposition the sector whenever such occasion arises in view of the huge investments it cost them to establish their airlines.
On the contrary, when issues that will reshape the sector including the airlines are to be decided, the domestic carriers will suddenly vamoose into the thin air.
The latest of such questionable attitudes played out at the recently held public hearing organized by the Senate Committee on Aviation on the repeal and enactment of civil aviation bills of all the aviation agencies in Abuja.
The public hearing which touched on all the critical components that make up aviation such as flight operations and financial sustainability of all relevant businesses on one hand and that of the airlines, had all the key players in attendance except the domestic carriers.
But for the presence of the Chief Executive Officers of Overland Airways, Captain Edward Boyo; Westlink, Captain Mshellia; Topbrass, Captain Roland Iyayi and the lawyer for the airlines, the critical decision expected to come out of the gathering that would no doubt change the game of business at the sector would have eluded the airlines.
While the airlines could claim that the presence of their lawyer at the hearing was enough for them, this was however far from reality as the various events that unfolded required the presence of the airlines to directly speak for themselves.
It’s no longer news that top of the critical issues that were debated at the gathering included the huge indebtedness of the airlines running to N22 billion ($6.9 million and N19.6 billion) being the accumulated debts of 20 years owed the various aviation agencies from the 5percent Tickets Sales Charge (TSC) and Passengers Service Charge (PSC) they collected on behalf of the agencies from passengers which they failed to remit.
Many of the airlines as discussed at the hearing apart from being financially unfaithful to their partners, lack the wherewithal that can solidify their airlines such as required corporate governance and using the right equipment to operate on the right route.
Besides these anomalies on the parts of the airlines, it became more obvious that they are all working at cross purposes as witnessed in the lack of unity existing amongst them which was confirmed at the last election held to choose their executive members.
Amidst these sad imbroglio, the government after much pressure has announced a N4 billion bailout fund for them to help cushion the negative impact of the pandemic.
Even though the amount is nothing to celebrate in view of the capital intensive nature of airline business, one fact is that with the present disorganization amongst the airlines, they may likely forfeit it as no serious government will invest N4 billion on a group that is so scattered.
Unfortunately, the same airlines are ever ready to accuse the foreign airlines of taking over the Nigerian market when in actual fact their body language is that of somebody who does not understand the nitty gritty of running airline business.
The failure of the airlines to come together has continued to be the bane of domestic airline business in Nigeria which government and other interested parties have been capitalizing on to get away with some unpopular policies.
As the warring airlines have forgotten that a divided house cannot go far, one basic notion among stakeholders in the sector is that the Nigerian airlines are their own problems and unless they realize this and retrace their steps, the end may be regrettable.
No airline can operate on its own without partnering with others in this time of emerging marketing challenges. The secret of strong mega carriers like BA, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, VAA, Ethiopian among others lies in their ability to put aside individual pride and embrace partnerships.
Without cooperation, no one, not even the government can fight the cause of the domestic carriers and failure to quickly realize the importance of partnerships as it is done in other climes, the foreign airlines may soon replace them and they will be the loser after making so much investments.
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