BusinessDay

EXPLAINER: What passengers could gain from Nigerian airlines’ new alliance

If you are a frequent outbound traveller who often connects flights, you may have had this experience: you bought a ticket from a certain airline, but when you arrived at the airport, you were directed to a check-in desk of a different airline? What probably happened was that you travelled with the code-share partner of the airline you booked with.

Codesharing is a way airlines put their forces together to improve customer experience. It is also a business arrangement whereby both airlines jointly offer flights to common destinations while operating services to destinations that are not within each airline’s regular routes.

Through codeshare, both airlines expand their market presence and competitive footprint in the interest of the flying public.

Earlier this month, Air Peace, Azman Air, United Nigeria Airline, Arik Air, Aero Contractors and Max Air entered into a similar alliance in a bid to improve service delivery.

Referred to as ‘Spring Alliance’, the initiative promises to reduce flight delays and cancellations, as passengers booked on a cancelled or delayed flight can be transferred to another flight flying to the same destination.

In 2021, Dana Air and Ibom Air signed the first-ever domestic codeshare/interline agreement. The partnership offers more route options, schedule options and easy connectivity for the flying public.

Airlines with similar alliances globally

Nigerian airlines’ air alliance may be coming a bit late, as several countries have since leveraged alliances to expand their networks.

In North America, Europe and India, Delta Airlines codeshares with Jet Airways and KLM. American Airlines and JetBlue have codeshare partnerships.

Emirates codeshares with Bangkok Airways available on Thai routes and other South East Asian destinations. The airline also codeshares with Flybe available on UK destinations.

Etihad Airways codeshares with Aer Lingus, Air Canada, Air Baltic to ply Dublin, London-Heathrow, Manchester and Amsterdam routes.

Benefits to Nigerian passengers

The benefits of airline alliances are linked to both the economic importance of the destination served and the network connections available from that airport to additional destinations.

Allen Onyema, chairman of Air Peace, said the flying public would reap benefits from the new alliance. “For example, if Air Peace has a tech issue on any of its aircraft, the passengers of Air Peace need not be delayed; if any member of this alliance is going to the same destination, all we need to do is move the passengers over to that other airline, a member of the alliance, at no further cost to the passenger.”

Onyema described the initiative to form the alliance as a noble one and a revolution in Nigeria’s aviation sector. He urged other airlines to tap into the benefits offered by the alliance by joining.

According to him, the Spring Alliance is not limited to Nigerian airlines alone, as other African airlines may wish to join.

Seyi Adewale, CEO of Mainstream Cargo Limited and a frequent flyer who has benefitted from a codeshare airline arrangement, said, “If well harnessed, there are several benefits of the newly formed domestic airlines codeshare arrangements from the passenger standpoint.”

Read also: Why flights are delayed in Nigeria – airline operators

Adewale said with codeshare, there would be a reduction or elimination of flight delays or cancellations due to technical or operational reasons since passengers can now be moved to another airline going the same route within the alliance.

He also hinted that safety standards will be optimised because participating airlines must now conform to agreed minimum service level offerings, air-miles and other frequent flyer benefits can now be accrued or used up with participating airlines.

“There would be elimination of ‘reserve’ cash travel needs to mitigate and prepare against booked flight cancellations or major delays by the immediate purchase from a competitor airline; it makes flight/ travel plans more efficient since there wouldn’t be a need to plan for inefficiencies (downtimes) caused by flight cancellations or major delays,” he said.

According to a recent report by the International Air Transport Association, codeshare or air transport network allows firms to improve their efficiency of production and to reduce costs.

According to the report, on average, 80 percent of firms report that air services are important for the efficiency of their production, with over 50 percent of firms saying it was vital or very important.

Nearly 70 percent of firms report that by allowing them to serve a bigger market, air transport allows them to exploit economies of scale substantially or to some extent.