Air Nigeria to acquire four aircraft for $280m

 Air Nigeria is to spend $280 million on the acquisition of four aircraft as part of move to expand its routes to Europe, America and other African countries this year.

Its Managing Director, Mr Kinfe Kahssaye, who made this known to reporters in Lagos, said each aircraft will cost $70 million.

According to Kahssaye, the airline hopes to introduce two A330-200 and two B737 NG/e-jets to raise its fleet to 15 from 11 aircraft.

The additional aircraft will be deployed in some of its long haul routes, such as the United Kingdom, Johannesburg, Dubai, Middle East, West and Central African countries, which it hopes to begin in the first quarter of this year while some of the routes would be completed in the next three to five years.

Kahssaye said local routes, such as Benin, Calabar and Uyo will be introduced in its domestic operations this year, adding that with the co-operation of the government, indigenous airlines will make progress.

He said: “The year has been good not only for Air Nigeria, but for other domestic airlines. Last year, none of the airlines had a serious incident unlike in the past. We should give kudos to the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) that properly monitored the sector and ensured that the right things were done.

“Within the year under review, we entered into strategic alliance-code share with Delta Airlines and several interline agreements were signed. Before the turn-around, the airline had only five aircraft in its fleet, but today, we can conveniently boast of 11 aircraft in our fleet. Without operations in 2011, we can now say we are on the path of profitable growth.

“Where we want to go from here is to reposition the airline to be the leading player in West Africa, build competitive and strong global network based on the Lagos hub. Also, we want to build a maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) facility and further build a competitive workforce.”

He maintained that before the turn-around embarked upon by Dr. Jimoh Ibrahim in 2010, the airline between 2005 and 2009 had a huge loss of $370 million, but with the injection of funds by the new management, the airline was now on the path of profitability.

Also, the management would embark on the construction of maintenance hangar from 2013, but declined to comment on where the hangar would be sited by the management.

He, however, emphasised that aviation business globally is not profitable as research carried out over the last 40 years revealed that profit among the airlines under the period was 1.1 per cent, but called for support from the Federal Government to the indigenous airlines.

In a bid for the Nigerian airlines to effectively compete with its counterparts, Kahssaye has called for waivers on aircraft imported spare parts and aircraft acquisition by the indigenous airline.
Kahssaye lamented that the huge Customs duties paid on imported spare parts and acquisition or lease of aircraft is having its toll on the airlines, saying Nigeria is the only country in the world where indigenous airlines pay Customs and import duties on spare parts and aircraft acquired or leased.

He also itemised lack of long term financing for investments, lack of training and high aviation fuel rate as part of the challenges facing indigenous airlines in the country. He decried that aviation fuel alone took about 50 per cent of the airlines’ operating cost in 2011.

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