BusinessDay

FG criticised for granting foreign airlines entry into Kano, PH airports

...critics say decision ‘ll hurt local airlines

The Federal Government has been criticised for granting foreign airlines multiple entry points into Nigeria despite agitations by domestic carriers and players in the sector.

Ethiopian Airlines operates into Lagos, Abuja, Enugu, Kano and Port Harcourt airports.

Emirates operates into Lagos and Abuja airports. Lufthansa operates into Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt airports.

The latest addition to the Federal Government’s approval for multiple entry points is Qatar Airways. In addition to Lagos and Abuja airports, the government recently granted Qatar entry into the Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano and Port Harcourt International Airport, Omagwa.

On Qatar Airways official social media handle, the airline said it has been given approval by the Nigerian government to fly into Port Harcourt and Kano airports.

It stated: “We welcome Kano and Port Harcourt in Nigeria to our growing African network, with flights starting early March 2022, via Abuja to Doha and onwards to over 140 destinations.”

But experts, who have always advocated for destinations for foreign airlines to be limited to one international airport, said if this policy of granting multiple entries continues, local airlines will be negatively affected.

John Ojikutu, aviation security consultant and secretary-general of the Aviation Safety Round Table Initiative (ASRTI) said local airlines won’t profit from assigning more than two airports in Nigeria to foreign airlines which exposes them to domestic routes and into the domestic markets of the domestic airlines.

Ojikutu said that rather than give one foreign airline multiple destinations; it should either be Lagos or Abuja airport and not Lagos and Abuja and any other among Port Harcourt, Kano and Enugu (outside the geographical area of the first choice of Lagos and Abuja) to any foreign airline.

Read also: FG reinstates Emirates Airline schedule to Nigeria

“Giving foreign airlines more than two airports in Nigeria is to expose them into the domestic routes and, therefore, into the domestic markets of the domestic airlines. For me, it is either Lagos or Abuja and not Lagos and Abuja and any other among PH, Kano and Enugu (outside the geographical area of the first choice of Lagos and Abuja) to any foreign airline.

“However, the foreign airlines can be allowed as many frequencies as it wishes per day to the choice airports. Through interlining, the domestic airlines can be assured of improved domestic markets by distributing international passengers for connection with these foreign airlines,” Ojikutu said.

Amos Akpan, an aviation expert, said that the entry to Qatar airways into Kano and Port Harcourt airports in addition to existing flight frequencies into Abuja and Lagos will not help the growth of domestic operators.

Akpan said rather than help domestic airlines, it will instead expand the business and grow the economy of Qatar airways in Nigeria and put pressure on demand for foreign exchange because of demand to repatriate funds.

“I cannot situate within Nigeria’s aviation development programme the grant of entry to Qatar airways into Kano and Port Harcourt in addition to existing flight frequencies into Abuja and Lagos.

I have read and heard from the minister and the director-general of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) that Nigeria wants to grow Nigerian domestic operators which will encourage investment in the sector.

This decision will not help the growth of domestic operators. I, therefore, do not foresee the benefits to our domestic operators. Instead, it will expand the business and grow the economy of Qatar airways in Nigeria. This will in turn put pressure on demand for foreign exchange because of demand to repatriate funds,” Akpan argued.

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