Nigeria Air, Ethiopian Airlines Deal: My Position

Hadi Sirika, Nigeria’s Aviation Minister

By Gabriel Olowo

I once said in my reaction to the speculation that Ethiopian Airlines comes as a partner of the good choice for Air Nigeria and now that it is officially confirmed, my position remains the same.

Since the issue of Air Nigeria” TO BE OR NOT TO BE” has been laid to rest, given government insistence to do so, my endorsement is based on the need for the success of any new start-up Airline in Nigeria.

Failures still abound in the market and some airlines still remain very weak hence the challenge for the discerning, and concerned citizen remains in coming up with useful advice. It is especially advantageous for Air Nigeria to partner with ET (as a competitor on the NG basa,) for simple purposes of Code Share Agreement (CSA) and Blocked Seat Agreements (BSA) OUTSIDE the Airline’s intended Direct Services.

The merits of Cooperation and collaboration will more than outweigh that of Competition (in the manner of speaking) provided the management is on top of its game. Nigeria Airways in the past operated to many countries (not Directly) but by Commercial Agreements.

That is not all, Interlining and Global Alliances (which is a necessity in today’s aviation) comes with ease given this partnership rather than the airline struggling on its own for relevance and partnership for route expansion & penetration purposes.

The robust Maintenance Facility of ET and its varied Fleet will come very helpful to the young airline. Manpower training and Personnel exchanges would be another benefit.

Ethiopian Airlines as an African partner is inward-looking and it’s very, very good for the implementation of the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) under African Continent Free Trade Agreements (AfCFTA).

Without any intention of being the Brand Manager for this project, it is my call to salute any good decision be it by Individual Operator or Government.

The only caveat which has been printed repeatedly is that the 5% Govt ownership (our commonwealth) may not be necessary after all, since the government is midwifing a totally privately owned airline. It is a general contention that “Government has no business in Business” due to incessant political interferences.

It is also expected that the carrier is not treated as a “more flag carrier” than all others already flying the flag such as Air Peace and one-time Arik.

I want to discountenance the national carrier nomenclature as no one single airline can quickly and easily reciprocate all BASA belonging to Nigeria. Two or three strong airlines are desirable.

The playing field must be leveled for all flag carriers in the interest of Nigeria Aviation. This is the voice of a solution provider rather than a mere critic.

I will encourage the airline operators, aircraft operators, and all interested stakeholders and associations to endeavour to buy the 46% remaining shares available to the public.

Dr. Gabriel Olowo, an Economist is President/CEO of Sabre West Africa and President, of Aviation Round Table.

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