Asky Airlines, a private multinational passenger airline serving West and Central Africa has restated its commitment in the Nigerian market as it makes plans to expand operations in and out of Nigeria.
The airline also recently deployed Boeing 737 series into the Nigerian market and phased out the Q400 Dash 8 series, (the turboprop aircraft designed for shorter distance flights), all in a bid to cater for the increasing passenger traffic and satisfy customer needs.
Speaking during Asky Airline’s trade forum with travel agents in Lagos, Simon Mobolaji, country manager, Asky Airlines Nigeria said the airline deployed the Boeing 737 series to provide customer satisfaction as it opens up West and Central Africa. The traffic is growing and the need is increasing, he said.
“We cannot continue to run on the Q400 for long because people are clamouring for more and we want to give them more. This is why we had phased out the Q400 Dash 8 series for the bigger Boeing 737. We are seeing more passengers flow into and out of Nigeria. The numbers are increasing.
“In the last one year, we have seen passenger number growth up to about 10 to 12 percent from Lagos and we believe that as the number continues to grow, there is a need to continue to increase capacity. This is not just from Nigeria but other destinations across the West and Central African region. We saw a need to increase capacity in these destinations, including Nigeria,” Mobolaji said.
He disclosed that on a daily basis, between three hundred to four hundred passengers fly Asky from Lagos and Abuja.
Speaking on its recently launched Lagos-Johannesburg flight, he said the route is a key market for the airline and in the last two months, Asky has done everything to ensure that it continues to sustain the operations and passenger numbers.
“When we started the Lagos-Johannesburg direct flight in July, we believed that the market is there despite the fact that we were facing challenges with visa issues but we have somehow been able to consolidate and we believe that with the forum we held today, our travel partners will be able to see the value addition that Asky is bringing into the market.
“We know we have competition but we believe that our products and services are top-notch for anyone who wants to fly to that destination,” the country manager said.
He however hinted that the scarcity and increase of aviation fuel price has impacted the airline’s operations hugely but they understand that they have to continue to satisfy customers no matter the circumstance.
“There were days when we could not get fuel in Lagos, so we had to stop in some other places to get fuel, just to operate. So it is biting hard and the skyrocketing prices have been tough but despite that, we continue to provide uninterrupted customer services,” Mobolaji said.
Another challenge faced by the airline just like other foreign carriers is its trapped funds.
According to Mobolaji, Asky Airline has not been able to repatriate any of its trapped funds and has been engaging the International Air Transport Association (IATA), which has been engaging the Central Bank of Nigeria, (CBN) on this.
He disclosed that Asky has close to $15 million that is stuck in Nigeria but hopes that with the support of IATA and CBN, it will be resolved.
“The CBN is also engaging all stakeholders to ensure the funds are released. It’s a process and we believe it is being done in batches. It is a critical aspect for us because it means our liquidity is stretched thin and we can only appeal to the CBN through IATA to help us repatriate our funds,” he added.
He however noted that despite these challenges, Asky is pulling its strength in most of the markets where it operates, stressing that the new Lagos-Johannesburg route will deepen its competition.
The country manager also hinted that the airline has commenced plans to move to the new Lagos terminal.
“We have already secured the offices and right now, we are in the process of furnishing the offices to ensure that ticketing offices are up to standard with our brands, after which we can put a date to the launch,” he said.