Optimism as regulators, airlines seek birth of codeshare agreements

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There appears to be rays of hope for the birth of codeshare agreements and
partnership among Nigerian domestic carriers as industry experts cutting across the upstream and downstream sectors of the country’s aviation industry said the time for it is now.

Over the years, the call for interlining between and among Nigerian airlines has been seen by operators as a business model could put them out of business or see them play second fiddle. However, there seems to be agreement among them now that codesharing of passengers and others among the airlines remain the best option in the current dispensation.

Among benefits adduced by experts and industry players for the business model include
a reduction in the cost of operations and increase in profitability ratios by allowing passengers book their flights via the itineraries on multiple airlines platforms at a reduced stress.

Those who spoke at the first quarter of the virtual meeting of the aviation industry think tank group, Aviation Safety Round Table Initiative (ASRTI), opined that as a leading market and travel destination in Africa, collaboration among Nigerian airlines will enable them reap the benefits of Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM).

The theme: ‘Utilising Interlining and Codeshare Agreement as a Tool for Domestic

airlines’ profitability and passenger comfort’, the Director General, NCAA, Captain Musa Nuhu said aptly explained the needed impetus for Nigerian carriers to win big in the new SAATM dispensation.

According to him, Nigerian airlines must begins to pull resources together as the region
welcomes the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) era affirming that only cooperation and partnerships in different forms will enable them harness the huge potentials of air transportation in the region.

Nuhu said “we can only create the enabling environment for their businesses to thrive, we cannot force them on cooperation but the benefits inherent in cooperation and partnerships are huge, IATA has dedicated a clearing house, there is need for members of Airline Operators of Nigeria to work together and interline, it makes their operations more efficient and saves cost.

He added that “We have a huge market, I don’t see why Nigerian airlines cannot
dominate the West and Central African region, we have over 600 million passengers and they could do 60 million, with partnerships, these are possible”.

Renowned industry expert and former director general of NCAA, Dr. Harold Demuren,
advised that domestic sector should have a domestic settlement system but with
credibility and transparency, adding that with this, ‘we will have a better industry’.

Dr.Demuren said “Cooperation is very imperative, the airlines can even graduate to joint training and others, let’s take advantage of technology, let’s turn the West African market into a domestic operation, instead of trying to go to London and compete with airlines that have it all. We appeal to the NCAA and the Ministry of Aviation to dismantle the Bilateral Air Services Agreement requirement and allow the airlines to move. When the airline has a track record and when foreign airlines are looking for partnership, they will have the confidence that you are ready”.

In his intervention, President of ASRTI, Mr. Gabriel Olowo, reiterated that for the country’s airlines to maximise their profits and cost, they must embrace interline and codeshare which make it mandatory for them to be in the clearing house for interline settlements, adding that directly or indirectly, measures the economic health of the airlines.

In apparent confirmation of the call, Ibom Air disclosed that an interlining deal with a domestic airline is in the pipeline and will be made public soon.

The airline’s chief operating officer, Mr. George Uriesi told participants at the virtual conference.

He said: “We are aligning our systems and we will launch in May, we started negotiation and other meetings in October 2020.”

Uriesi was upbeat the agreement will be a cynosure for others to follow and crystallises into an alliance where other airlines are able to join.

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