As the airline industry in Nigeria strategise on the best ways to survive after the devastation caused by the dreaded coronavirus (COVID-19), two local carriers have entered into a rare interlining arrangement that offers customers the benefit of the two airlines, using a single ticket. We gathered that this first of its kind partnership in Nigeria will be between Dana and Ibom Air, and is set to roll out sometime in May.
The pact is the first-time indigenous carriers have heeded aviation experts’ advice for competing airlines to interline and make the most of available customers to cut operational wastage and losses. An interline flight is an agreement between airlines to coordinate passengers with an itinerary that uses multiple airlines, without having to check in again or deal with their baggage at the stopover.
Mr George Uriesi, the Chief Operating Officer of Ibom Air, gave a hint on the partnership. Uriesi, who spoke at the quarterly meeting of the Aviation Safety Roundtable Initiative (ASRTI), with the theme ‘Utilising Interlining and Codeshare Agreements As Tools For Domestic Airlines Profitability And Passenger Comfort’, said Ibom Air just finished a long process of interlining with some Nigerian airlines, ahead of mutually beneficial operations.
He described the country’s airline industry as competitive because of the proliferation of airlines for a small pool of market, which comes with lots of empty seats when aircraft doors are closed, adding, “We are in the last phase of the interline project. By May, we shall launch. The challenge is to have partners who are organised and who meet up with the organisation of your company. Your workforce has to work together, sit together to look at your schedule, and integrate into your reservation system.”
The Director-General of NCAA, Capt. Musa Nuhu, lauded what he described as a “fresh start,” adding that it would help airlines to maximise profit and make air travel to be enjoyable for passengers, and on the other hand, eliminate delay and flight cancellations.
The DG said, “We are happy about this. Airlines are supposed to manage their business properly. These agreements are business decisions by airlines, to have several benefits both for the airlines and passengers. I do not see why a country of 200 million people cannot have 30 million passengers. It is not encouraging.
“The airlines need the political will to work together. Nigeria has the market. We must put our resources and energy into this to bring it to fruition and not allow airlines like Ethiopian Airlines and Kenya to take advantage of our huge market,” Nuhu said.
Similarly, the President of ASRTI, Dr. Gbenga Olowo, in his opening remark lamented that airlines’ poor schedule integrity year-on-year has eroded the good performance of the carriers following passengers’ complaints of poor services offered by many of the airlines.
He said: “Poor on-time performance, depleting and inadequate fleet have led to many of the challenges of airlines. If we had interline arrangement, It would have helped to reduce the hardship faced by passengers who in most times are faced with long hours of delay and in some cases, cancellation of flights.”