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Nigeria Air to launch with Lagos-Abuja shuttle, Ethiopian Airlines emerges preferred bidder

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The Federal Government has selected Ethiopian Airlines (ET) consortium as preferred bidder for Nigeria Air, controlling 49 per cent of the national carrier.

Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, who said this during a media briefing in Abuja, announced that the new national carrier would start flight operations with initial Lagos and Abuja shuttle.

Sirika said ET scored 89 per cent out of 100 in the technical bidding process and 15 out of 20 as regards financial bids.

He explained that the request for proposal (RFP) under the public-private partnership (PPP) Act, governed by Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission(ICRC), has been completed.

“After a careful, detailed and ICRC governed selection process, Ethiopian Airlines (ET) Consortium has been selected as the preferred bidder, offering an owner consortium of 3 Nigerian investors.

“The Nigerian investors are MRS, SAHCO and the Nigerian Sovereign Fund (46%), FGN owning 5% and ET 49%. The consortium has been subject to a due diligence process.

“The contract will be negotiated between consortium and FGN, leading to a full business case (FBC) which will be expected to be approved by the federal executive council (FEC). We expect this process to take 6-8 weeks.”

The minister said the national carrier would launch with three Boeing 737-800 in a configuration very suitable for the Nigerian market.

According to him, Nigeria Air will be launched with a shuttle service between Abuja and Lagos to establish a new comfortable, reliable and affordable travel between the two major airports.

The minister added that other domestic destinations would follow later.

“The first aircraft is ready to arrive in Abuja for further work and NCAA inspection, demo flights and audit as part of the AOC requirements.

“In time, two others will arrive to complete the required three aircraft for a new AOC holder. The interim executive team has prepared with the support of FAAN.

“The team has arranged for Terminal C at the Abuja Airport and finalised a contract with MMA 2 terminal in Lagos for the operation of an initial shuttle between Lagos and Abuja,” he said.

Aviation

Lagos-London air passengers pay over 400% more than Abuja-London fliers

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Passengers travelling from Lagos to London in the coming days might be forced to travel through Abuja to their destination as the former are made to pay at least 400 per cent higher than the latter.

According to a new Vanguard report, passengers flying on one-way economy ticket through Abuja on British Airways pay $501 (about N222,093) while those travelling through Lagos on the same airline and ticket class pay as much as $2,700 (about N1,196,910).

Also, passengers travelling through Ethiopian Airline on one-way economy ticket through Abuja pay N700,000, while those going through Lagos on the same airline and ticket class pay as much as N2.8 million.

The fare differential, according to industry operators, may not be unconnected to demand and supply differentials but also noted that the distance is almost same for the two routes.

Vanguard gathered that flights from London to Abuja take six hours, and 20 minutes, while flights to Lagos from London take six hours and 25 minutes.

Though Air France maintains same fares from both routes the amount is also high at $2,141 on similar ticket class for a one-way journey.

Passengers’ reactions

A traveller who spoke to Vanguard about the development lamented her amazement to the development.

According to her, “I was to travel to London next week. So in a bid to ensure i pay less, I open the booking portal of BA, I was in Abuja and I mistakenly clicked on Murtala Muhammed International Airport, MMIA, and i was taken to the price to my amazement, the price i saw there was $2,700 I was shocked.

“I had to check very well to see if i had punched something odd. I realised I inputted Lagos instead of Abuja. So I had to readjust and the price I finally saw was far lower. This was quite outrageous as it was not supposed to be so.”

Another traveller who spoke to Vanguard Aviation World, said: “Why will Ethiopian Airline, and Africa airline put their airfare to London this high? I was expecting their price to be lesser than others but I was wrong.

“Even the price in Lagos differs by a far margin. Why would it be so?

 

The ministry responsible should look into it, as for me it can only be attributed to extortion.”

BA’s spokesperson, Josephine Simmons, gave reasons for the disparity, saying that airfares could differ due to availability, airport taxes and other factors.

She was quoted as saying, “Prices differ by airport due to numerous factors including customer demand and fare charges – including airport taxes.

“Most customers book their flights in advance, benefiting from competitive fares.”

The development has created a series of reactions from both stakeholders and travellers across the country.

While some stakeholders attributed the development to the exploitation of Nigeria’s passengers, others stated that the less demand in Abuja was strengthened by the security challenges.

According to the Principal Partner, Avaero Capital, Sindy Foster, the development possibly might be due to more demand than supply in Lagos.

“If BA had more demand from Abuja price would probably be higher. Most people are not flying direct between Abuja and London. I expect demand for Abuja went down due to security issues.

Flights tend to be lower if there is more supply against demand. It is good that prices have come down in Abuja. Will be interesting to work out why they are still high in Lagos. I suspect there is less demand for Abuja.

The chairman of United Nigeria Airline, Obiora Okonkwo, said: “Why do foreign airlines charge Nigeria so much?

“In the aviation industry, one-hour flight fuel consumption is the same, the only difference is maybe different landing charges in London or Ghana, the rest is the same.

“I can assure you that if Air Peace goes to London today, Nigerians will fly to London with an Economy ticket of N500,000. Today the price is about N2 million, why should we pay such if they are converting from N450 to $1?

“We owe Nigerians this explanation. However, whatever is going on, this is a wake-up call that the local operators have to be supported as they have all it takes to operate internationally.

“Emirates have over $5 billion in support from their government. When we ask for support, it is not free, we pay back. American Airlines have equity of over $60 billion and a debt profile of $70 billion and those debts all come from government support.

“If the local airlines are supported, we can have the capacity that cannot be threatened globally. The easiest flight to operate is a long haul. Short haul is even more difficult as it is stressful to both the aircraft and cabin crew.

“It is even easier to go to London, aviation is the same globally, you are audited by IOSA, IATA and that is, they prevented us and make us looks bad.

“They are also aware that our quality and regulatory standards are high. We get crews and captains coming to Nigeria and they fail our exams and we send them back.”

It would be recalled that Nigeria, a destination of over 22 foreign carriers, manages Bilateral Air Services Agreements, BASA, with over 78 countries.

These airlines operate daily and weekly in Nigeria.

Ethiopian and ASKY, Togolese airline also operated by Ethiopian Airline, together operate 54 frequencies weekly in Nigeria.

African World Airways (AWA) has 49 frequencies per week; British Airways and Virgin Atlantic operate 21 frequencies weekly into Nigeria; EgyptAir with 16; Air France 15; Saudi Arabian Airways 13; Emirates 11; Lufthansa 11; Air Cote d’Ivoire10; Qatar 9; South African Airways 7.

Others were Delta, Royal Air Maroc, RwandAir, Sudan Airways, and Turkish Airways, which enjoy seven frequencies without reciprocity from Nigerian airlines.

Also, Etihad has five frequencies; Fly Mid Africa has four; Middle East Airlines – has four and Air Italy formerly Meridiana has three weekly flights to the country.

-Vanguard with minimal editing and a new headline

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Just in: Court halts sale of Nigeria Air shares to Ethiopia Airlines

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A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos on Tuesday ordered the Federal Government to suspend the process of selling the shares of Nigeria Air to Ethiopian Airlines.

The temporary injunction was given in a suit FHC/L/CS/2159/2022 and filed by Airline Operators in Nigeria (AON), Azman Air Services Limited, Air Peace Limited, Max Air Limited, United Nigeria Airline Company Limited, and Topbrass Aviation Limited, the plaintiffs.

The suit has Nigeria Air, Ethiopian Airlines, Hadi Sirika, minister of aviation, and Abubakar Malami, attorney-general of the federation (AGF), as defendants.

The judge, Lewis-Allagoa, as found in the enrolment order, said the government, represented by the aviation minister, and the AGF should not proceed with the “establishment agreement” until the substantive matter in the suit was heard and determined.

The court directed all the parties in the suit to maintain “status quo”.

The plaintiffs asked the court to award them N2 billion in damages and order a perpetual injunction restraining the government from transferring the shares and operations of Nigeria Air to Ethiopian Airlines.

In the originating summons of the suit, the plaintiffs formulated five questions to the court to determine, one of which read:

“Whether the entire process for the sale and transfer of shares of the 1st defendant to the 2nd defendant and its consortium by the 3rd and 4th defendants is in line with the provisions of the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (Est.) Act, 2005, Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Act, International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Convention, the National Policy on Public Private Partnership (N4P), sections 76-81 of the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Act, and does not affect the entire process including the selection, approval or grant to the 2nd defendant and its consortium by the 3rd and 4th defendants is not invalid and thereby entitling the entire process to fresh bidding exercise?”
The plaintiffs, therefore, prayed the court to declare that “the entire administrative actions and decisions of the 3rd and 4th defendants in the sale of the shares of the 1st defendant to the 2nd defendant and its consortium is invalid, void and of no effect”.

The plaintiffs also sought for: “A declaration that the 2nd defendant was incompetent to bid for shares in the 1st defendant and commence business accordingly

“An order setting aside the entire bidding/selection process(es) for the “Nigeria Air” project as well as the approval, grant or selection of the 2nd defendant by the 1st, 3rd and 4th defendants in the process.

“An order directing the immediate, fresh and transparent bidding process(es) involving the plaintiffs being the indigenous Airline Operators in Nigeria rightly entitled to participate in the process.

“An order directing the immediate revocation and cancellation of the air transport licence (ATL) issued by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) to the 1st defendant.”

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Sirika dares domestic airlines, says no going back on Nigeria Air

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The Federal Government says it has no plan to discontinue the proposed new national carrier, Nigeria Air, despite ongoing suit challenging the project.

Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, stated this on Tuesday during a stakeholders’ appreciation forum for the reconstruction of Lagos airport Runway 18L.

He said he individually engaged three indigenous carriers to participate in the project but they turned down the offer.

Sirika said, “I contacted Air Peace, Azman Air and Max Air but they turned down my invitation because it was not formal.

“I do not see the possibility of any court of competent jurisdiction will erect a road block to the emergence of the national carrier.

“I have been very transparent in the processes put in place to deliver the national carrier. If anyone wants to invest in a company, no one can stop them from investing. You can own a company 100 percent. If anyone wants to invest, why not ? We want foreign direct investment.”

He said it was unacceptable and unfair for stakeholders to claim that they had not been carried along on the national carrier project, adding that anybody who holding such information was working contrary to the actualisation of the aviation road map.

“Every information or documents pertaining to the project is domiciled at the ministry of aviation and Infrastructure Construction Regulatory Commission which are driving processes leading to the national carrier,” Sirika said.

He also spoke on the demolition of structures at the Lagos airport, stressing that there was no going back on the project to ensure Nigeria deliver state-of-the-art facilities that would transform into an aerotropolis.

The minister said Nigeria could not shortchange itself on the global move to deliver world-class air transport infrastructure as  obtainable in other developed countries such as United Arab Emirates and America.

“If I have my way, those structures from the local airport to Bristow will be demolished tomorrow and pave way for the emergence of a befitting airport city. Would you not like to see shopping mall, befitting car parks and other support facilities like you find in other parts of the world?” he said.

He said he would put measures in place to sustain the achievements in the aviation industry during the Buhari administration.

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