As the Nigerian Senate signals its intention to commence investigations into the multiple designation of routes to foreign airlines by the Nigeria government, domestic airline operators have advised the Federal Government to shelve its plan to increase the daily flight frequency alloted to United Arab Emirates carriers on the Lagos – Abuja- Dubai routes.
The Senate had last week Wednesday resolved to invite indigenous airline operators to explain to it some of the challenges facing them in the aviation industry. They also agreed to summon the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Transport, the Director General of Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) and Managing Director of FAAN to explain why foreign airlines are allowed to fly multiple routes within Nigeria, a practice not allowed in their home countries.
Senator Ifeanyi Uba, who brought the motion to the Senate noted that the trend was injurious to the survival of local airlines.But in an interview granted journalists in Dubai, UAE, recently, Chairman/CEO of Air Peace said he might be forced to shut down the Lagos – Sharjah-Dubai flight if the Federal Government grants foreign carriers additional slots out of Lagos.
Emirates and Etihad (UAE airlines) currently operate three daily flights out of the Lagos airport with both airlines estimated to be flying an average of 250 passengers daily out of Nigeria. Emirates also operates a daily flight out of the Abuja airport.
Said Onyema, “we gathered that an airline from UAE wants to increase its frequency to Nigeria, but if the government allows that to happen, it will count against its indigenous carriers.
“Like in other countries, the first obligation of government is to protect its own economic interest. In the past, government officials will say Nigerian airlines don’t have capacity, but I am sure they cannot say that against Air Peace now with three Boeing 777 in our fleet.
“If they give them (the UAE carrier) another frequency into Lagos, they will make it uncompetitive for us and that will force us to close this Lagos-Sharjah-Dubai route and I will let Nigerians know why I closed the route.
So, let us think of Nigeria first. Air Peace can only stay here as long as we are protected by our government.