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Domestic Airline Operation in Nigeria. (Posted 16th May, 2003) Tell your friends about this page! Email it to them.

Nigeria has a large topography that is dotted with over 20 airports, five of which are international and the others in the domestic category. With the deregulation of the domestic airline industry, private sector initiative has intensified in the Nigerian civil aviation industry. Presently, there are over 29 airlines plying the domestic route in different service categories ranging from charter cargo service, oil-support service, charter passenger service and scheduled passenger service.

This positive development has led to intense competition among the key airline operators in the industry, especially in the area of value-added services, customer care and safety facilities available. According to statistics made available by the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) aircraft movement to and from Abuja (for domestic airlines only) in the year 2002 was 32,403 which was 14% higher than the 2001 figure which stood at 27,954. Also passenger movement to and from Abuja for 2001 and 2002 stands at 1,082,981 and 1,334,873 respectively, this show a difference of 19%.

The FAAN statistics further show the 5 most busy airports with the highest passenger movements (for year 2002) in descending order as Murtala Mohammed Airport (Domestic wing), Lagos, Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport, Abuja, Port Harcourt Airport, Mallam Aminu Kano Airport, Kano, and Kaduna Airport with 1,879,164, 1,334,873, 667,422, 194,696 and 146,050 respectively. The 5 airports with the least passenger movements are Ilorin Airport, Akure Airport, Minna Airport, Katsina Airport and Makurdi Airport with 4,910, 1,224, 1,062, 911 and 466 respectively.

In terms of safety, the Nigerian domestic airline operators have enjoyed a spell of accident free periods. But, recent development especially in the last two years have drastically reversed this situation with 2 crashes recorded in early 2001 and May 2002 from EAS Airline alone. Though, in a swift and highly commendable manner the Accident Investigation and Preventive Bureau (AIPB) after concluding its investigation into the crashes revoked EAS Air Operator Certificate (AOC) for negligence and lack of regard for safety conditions. This move ought to serve as a deterrent to other private airline operators. Also, much is expected of the Aviation Ministry in overseeing the affairs of these airlines, though the Ministry has ordered the use of better safety compliant planes like the Boeing 737 airplanes for local routes.

Stationary aircraft at one of Nigeria's airportsAll these incidents call to question the importance and effectiveness of the 2 key regulatory agencies saddled with the responsibility of monitoring the activity of these airlines. One, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), which is responsible for regulating the methods of entry and conduct of air transport business, ensure the safety of aircraft operations, monitor aircraft operating environment and play advisory roles to the Aviation ministry, has much to do.

Based on the recent audit of private airlines in the country conducted by the NCAA as at April 2003, only 29 airlines out of a total of 34 were cleared and were able to retain their Air Operator Certificates (AOC) for the next two years. The successful airlines are: Easy Link Aviation; Chanchangi Airlines; Dormier Aviation Nigeria AIEP (DANA); Pan African Airlines; Aero Contractors Nig. Ltd.; Overland; Bristow Helicopters; Bellview Airlines; Skypower Express Airways; Afrijet; Savannah Airlines; Premium Air Shuttle; Associated Airlines; Chrome Air Service;; Nigeria Airways; Fresh Air Ltd.; and Kabo Air. Others include King Air and Travels Ltd.; ADC Airlines Plc.; Wings Aviation; IRS Airlines; DASAB Airlines, Earth Airlines; Sosoliso Airlines and EAS Airlines (EAS AOC was later revoked by the AIPB for negligence). The affected airlines with their certificates revoked are Air Nigeria, Sky Executive Airlines, Falcon Airlines, Freedom Air Services and Nexus Aviation.

Two, the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) is principally mandated to regulate air traffic control, visual and non-visual aids, aeronautical telecommunication services, and secure safety, efficiency and regularity of air navigation. The agency needs to be more proactive as they determine the fate of planes during take off and landing. Also, there is the need for the agency to acquire state-of-the-art navigational equipment to boost their activity.

Passengers at a lounge at one of Nigeria's airportsThe uniform air tariff of airlines is mainly determined by prevailing maintenance cost of aircrafts like the C and D checks. Although, sometime airlines use their initiative in air tariff. A good example is Albarka Airline when it first started operation; it introduced the lowest tariff for the Lagos-Abuja route which created quite a ripple in the aviation industry. Current airline routes are restricted to Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt, Calabar, Owerri, Kano, Kaduna, Maiduguri, and Jos leaving over 10 other routes.

The new vista of democratic experience in Nigeria has created an investors haven. At such the civil aviation industry has opened doors of investment opportunities for both local and foreign business concern interested in investing in training (for pilots, air hostess, ticketing, air navigation etc), engineering and aircraft maintenance, marketing, public relations, tourism, real estate (especially for hotel development), transportation services, consultancy and other auxiliary services not mentioned.

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