Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Emirates increased its Africa flights

Emirates has continued its services into Africa, with plans to commence operations into the Angolan capital of Luanda. The new operations which starts on August 2, 2009, would make Luanda the airline's 17th destination on the continent.

The route would be the second to be opened in Africa flights within just two weeks, as the airline had earlier announced Durban as another African destination it would be flying into with effect from October 1, 2009.

According to the airline, the thrice weekly Luanda flights will allow Angola to further embrace international trade by being brought into the six continent-wide Emirates' network.
Emirates said an Airbus A330-200 would serve the route, which will help support the nation's oil-led boom, the emerging tourism market and the thousands of migrant workers, many of whom are from China.

Tim Clark, President, Emirates Airline, said: "This new Luanda flight provides enormous potential to develop flights into Angola , alongside the assistance we can provide for international trade through Emirates SkyCargo.

"In the past year, we have seen strong growth in Africa of 17%. Now, with Luanda starting in August and Durban flights starting later in the year, this is going to be another very exciting year in this largely untapped continent." Angola, around five times the size of the UK , lies on the Atlantic coast of south-central Africa. It is the continent's second largest oil exporter after Nigeria .

With four major ports along an expansive coastline, the nation is a natural transhipment point for the region. The country has abundant natural resources including oil, diamonds, gold, iron, copper and uranium.

The airline said the timing of the flight from Dubai into Luanda would allow good connectivity, with arrivals from Emirates' points in Asia and Australia. Meanwhile, the flight coming into Dubai, according to Emirates, provides smooth connectivity with all flights to Europe, the Middle East and the Americas.

It added that Emirates SkyCargo would provide up to 12 tonnes of cargo capacity in the bellyhold of each aircraft with imports expected to include consumer goods, electronics, telecommunications products and oil related equipment and spares. Perishables, such as fruit and flowers, are expected to feature amongst exports.

Dubai-based Emirates started flights to Lagos Africa in 1986, serving Cairo. Around 4,000 Africans are now employed throughout the Emirates Group.Since establishing itself as an airline in 1985, Emirates has rapidly expanded into a major transcontinental travel and tourism conglomerate. The airline now flies to six continents with a fleet of 132 aircraft, including four double-decker A380s.

New direct flights to Kenya

Delta Air has announced, it will start commercial flights from the United States to Kenya on June 3.

Delta Air will start flights to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport via Dakar, Senegal.

The flights to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport will ease travel between Kenya and United States and help increase Kenyan exports and tourists from US.

Delta’s commercial manager for West and East Africa, Bobby Bryan, said the new flights would ease connections between the two countries and between Nairobi and Senegal.

"The launch of new flights to Nairobi is very important to Delta, as it continues its African expansion," he said at a news conference in Nairobi, yesterday.

The new four-time weekly flights — using a Boeing 767-300ER aircraft with up to 216 seats — would be the only direct service to the US from Kenya.

Delta operates flights from Cairo, Accra, Dakar, Cape Town, Johannesburg and cheap Lagos flights. Confirmation of the commencement of the flight coincided with an announcement by local aviation authorities that US had certified the quality of its operations.

Dana Air is the best for 2009

Dana Air has been declared the best ICT-driven airline of the year at the National ICT Merit Award (NIMA) held in Lagos.
NIMA is an annual ICT award organised by Technology Africa in recognition of individuals and organisations at the forefront of technology deployment and adoption in the country.

Managing Consultant of Technology Africa, Mr Don Pedro Aganbi, said the airline was chosen because of its early deployment of ICT solutions.He said: “Dana Air was chosen as the recipient of the Best ICT Driven Airline award, despite being a new entrant in the aviation industry, because of its early deployment of ICT solutions.

“The introduction of e-booking and payment services by the airline is proof of the airline’s commitment to passenger convenience and comfort, and deserves to be complimented.”

Dana Air had its inaugural Africa flights on October 10, 2008 and the recent award coincides with the completion of its 150 days of scheduled flight operations. The airline currently operates 10 flights daily on the Lagos-Abuja-Lagos flights and is set to commence operations on the Lagos-Enugu-Lagos flights.

Chief Executive Officer of Dana Air, Mr. Jacky Hathiramani, acknowledged the award as ‘humbling, especially being a new airline in the country.’ He re-iterated the airline’s commitment to the provision of world-class air transport services to Nigerians and assured that the airline would continue to explore new and exciting ways of making its passengers’ flying experience more pleasurable, deploying the latest technologies.

Plans are also in top gear to extend operations to the cities of Kano and Port-Harcourt.
A subsidiary of Dana Group of Companies, Dana Airlines is Nigeria’s first new world carrier, offering premium services at an affordable rate.

Lufthansa Adds Astral's Africa

New agreement with Etihad Crystal Cargo, Nairobi, Kenya-based Astral Aviation has now been signed a deal with Lufthansa Cargo.

Lufthansa currently flies an MD11 four times a week to Nairobi on the way to Johannesburg. Astral will now on-carry to five African countries using a mixed freighter fleet of DC9s, F27s and Antonov 12s.

Astral will be providing direct flights to Bujumbura, Burundi; Zanzibar, Dar Es Salaam and Mwanza in Tanzania; Juba and Khartoum, Sudan; Entebbe, Uganda; and Kigali, Rwanda.

Last month, Lufthansa’s joint venture Jade Cargo began twice-weekly flights from Shanghai with a 747-400 freighter via Chennai in India to Sharjah, UAE and Lagos, Nigeria.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Economic conditions will remain difficult till 2011

The Assistant General Manager, Asia, Pacific and Africa Operations, British Airways, Mr. Ashley Cowen, was in Lagos recently. In this interview with OYETUNJI ABIOYE and EMEKA EZEKIEL, he spoke on the global economic meltdown and the prospect of the airline industry, among other issues

This is the first time you are visiting Africa, specifically Nigeria. What is your mission?

The first and most important thing to me is to make sure that the bedrock of excellent customer service, safety and security, is at the heart of everything that we do. So, before we talk about the mission of moving forward, we really have to make sure that we work on those key elements. In the future, even though we know that we operate in a very difficult environment, I believe that the African continent offers a great opportunity for growth. Even though the growth might not be as fast as we expect, the continent still remains the engine of growth. My plan is to offer more frequency on Lagos-London flights. I think the African continent offers a real engine of growth. If we can join businesses together round the world; if we can bring investors here; if we can bring goods and services here and take goods and services away to sell in other markets and also join friends and families together round the globe, then we would be achieving a lot. These are chief, among the strong things we want to see and develop in Africa .

There is a partnership between the British Airways and the United Nations Children Fund. How much of this fund do you intend to invest in Africa, in general, and Nigeria in particular?

I do not have the details or the total amount that would be invested in Nigeria right now at my fingertips.

But if you talk about Nigeria, £26m had been budgeted and already collected under the Change For Good Programme since 1994. Today, we are really lucky enough to announce the sum of £220,000 that would be used to buy insect-repelling malaria nets that are specifically targeting children under five years and pregnant mothers. It is always alarming to hear that for all under-five deaths, 40 per cent of them are malaria related. This is one area we want to assist through the Change for Good programme

Looking at the global economic recession, what plan do you have to sustain the market in Nigeria or simply put: what is the future of British Airways in Nigeria?

We have a strong foot in Africa. The Africa market is important to us. There is a recession, which does affect passenger numbers, and Nigeria is not being unaffected. What we have done is to introduce promotional fares to encourage passengers to fly. We have slashed fares for first class. You can pay one way in first class. We have two in one fare in business class and we have special fare of £599 in economy class to encourage passengers to fly.

Have you experienced a drop in passenger volume in your African operations?

Yes, there is a drop in Africa.

Can you bring that down to percentage level?

We don‘t give away such secrets about passenger drop in our operations.

You do two flights into Nigeria everyday. In what other countries do you do more than two flights and what type of aircraft do you use?

We operate three flights to South Africa a day. Nigeria is one of the few countries in Africa that have more than a daily flight. South Africa and Nigeria are where we have more than a daily flight.

The airline industry globally is going through economic downturn. How specifically has it been affecting the British Airways?

I think there is no question about the fact that there is a global economic downturn. I think it is the more significant economic downturn that we have ever witnessed in the airline industry. There has been a lot of highs and a lot of lows but this is the most significant downturn that the industry has ever witnessed. It is a combination of factors: a number of key economies, like the United States, are in recession. The United Kingdom is in recession and Europe is in it. However, we still got economic growth in some areas. For instance, China is growing, India is growing, Africa is growing; but the rate of growth has slowed down quite a lot. Then, if you look at some of the major economies they have very weak consumer confidence, definitely consumer confidence in the UK is at its lowest. The same applies to the US. We have a banking system that is not working at the moment. It is particularly very difficult in the airline industry. What happened to the downturn in the airline industry has to do with very high oil prices and we have volatile currencies – the pound has weakened significantly against the dollar and Euro – all these factors combined to make it very challenging at the moment.

Interestingly, the rate of decline in British Airways is less than the industry average if you look at the International Air Transport Association figures. IATA is looking at figures globally that are worse than that of British Airways and I think that is early indication of how low passenger turn out is hitting global carriers. There is low premium travel in the Trans Pacific and premium travel within Asia. I think a lot of people saw this as being caused by UK, US situation. However, in terms of air travel, Asia is probably the target. That is where it really shows that it is a global issue. So it is going to be a challenging year, although we have got a very sound financial position going into it and that helped. Fortunately we have put secured financing in place for all the new aircraft we have ordered. That is already financed and probably makes British Airways unique in the world of aviation. A lot of airlines today will find it challenging financing new aircraft. I think we are in a sound position but we have to look at ways to improve our performance, and that is exactly what we need to do. We are very confident that we know what we are going to do and we know that we will do what is necessary to make sure that British Airways is one of the airlines that will not only survive this period but actually come out to make its position stronger in the industry.

How many aircraft do you have and why is it that you deploy old aircraft to Nigeria?

That is untrue. The aircraft we deploy to Nigeria are very sound aircraft that we deploy to our other destinations, including US cities. The aircraft that came from Abuja this morning is going to Brussels. It is the same aircraft. We don‘t differentiate at that. I don‘t know where that rumour started from. We don‘t differentiate and dedicate our aircraft. We integrate all our aircraft. Among our long haul aircraft, which fly to Nigeria, we have 57 Boeing 747-400 and we have 42 Boeing 777-200 aircraft and they fly our long haul network. The aircraft that flew in from Lagos this morning is scheduled to go to Mumbai this afternoon. The aircraft that operated from Abuja yesterday flew in from Tel-Aviv. Aircraft integration in this issue is so complex that it will be impossible to dedicate one aircraft on one route. So, the aircraft you see in Nigeria is the aircraft you will see in all the world cities. That is the way we operate. British Airways has been operating to Nigeria for over 70 years before any of you were born, I believe 70 years from now, when other people will be flying British Airways, the airline will still be coming to Nigeria. It is a very important market and we believe we operate a very competitive service to Nigeria. It is a market that we are absolutely committed to and we understand how competitive that market is; how competitive it has been in the past and how competitive it is today and how it will be in the future. To show we are committed to Nigeria we have been there during good time and we have been there during bad times. And we will be there flying Heathrow- Lagos and Abuja. We have had cause in the past to increase our flights to Nigeria. We will like to increase our frequency but we are, as a commercial airline (fully commercial), we would only succeed if our customers are satisfied with our service. And I believe we offer very good service because we are airline that have a world of customers. We fly to all parts of the world because we are a global premium airline and Nigeria is a key part of the global market.

You had a problem with your aircraft, which forced it to land in Kano from Abuja, on its way to London. The incident prompted Nigerian government to query you. What really happened?

That is part of the allegation- that we use different aircraft to fly to Nigeria, which is untrue. It is easy for people to say this. The fact is that British Airways has very strong business in Nigeria. A lot of people fly British Airways and they keep coming back. I think we do that because we offer good service. When we look at serving Nigeria and operating from Nigeria to London, it is like serving our global network. So, we look at how we integrate our aircraft so that flights from Abuja and Lagos can connect to other services that we have because a lot of the people that we fly from Nigeria are not just flying to London, but flying to connect to other networks. Therefore, we have got to make sure that the aircraft arrive a time that is suitable to connect to other destinations. It is very complex and I think you‘ve got the opportunity to see how complex Heathrow is and we gave you the reasons of why we do what we do.

Has the current economic recession forced you to withdraw your acquisition order from aircraft manufacturers?

It is quite the opposite. In September 2007, we secured finance for all the aircraft that we ordered. So, we are going to take delivery of all those aircraft. In 2009, we are going to take four triple 7-200- the first one will actually get delivered next week (this week). In 2010, we will take six triple 7-300; in 2011 we have no scheduled delivery. We were due to take eight Boeing 787 in 2011 but that programme has been delayed. Those aircraft will be delivered to us in 2012. In 2012, we will get the delivery of eight Boeing 787 and four Airbus A380 and then in 2013 another eight Boeing 787 and another four A380s.

What is BA‘s strategy for coming out of this economic recession? Any prediction on when the recession will be over in the airline industry?

The strategy is simple. We are a premium airline and we will continue to be a premium airline. We have a global network and we will continue to maintain that global network. We hope we will be able to strengthen that global network, but it is going to be a tough environment. Economic conditions, we believe, will remain difficult until 2011. So, we are planning that we are going to have weak economic environment in current 2009 and 2010. The US economy will begin to recover, maybe, midway 2010. UK economy will follow in about six months so that by 2011, we‘ll get back into economic growth. It is going to be tough in the next two years.

Two years ago, China said it was going to order 200 aircraft- which was a very ambitious order. These aircraft will need pilots, requiring China poaching from other airlines. Has China been requesting to offer jobs to your pilots?

This issue has been discussed in IATA. It was one of the concerns raised at the IATA Annual General Meeting that Middle East airlines and China, from the rate they are growing, will have to quickly train people – pilots, engineers, people that work in IT. Some were saying that this was putting them in a significant disadvantage. But things have just slowed down, even in the Middle East. What we have seen is that there are people who retire early from British Airways and take a pension and then go on to work for another airline. Apart from that, we have not seen much of that, at this point, other airlines coming to British Airways to take people. It is a big issue and I know that some small airlines at IATA AGM were very concerned about this. It makes the situation more competitive.

Lufthansa expands into West Africa

Lufthansa Cargo has signed an interline deal with Kenyan freight carrier Astral Aviation, which will allow the German operator access to seven new African destinations via Nairobi.

The contract comes shortly after Etihad Crystal Cargo finalised a similar arrangement with Astral, which provides services to Bujumbura (Burundi), Dar Es Salaam, Mwanza, Zanzibar (all Tanzania), Juba (Sudan) and Kigali and Entebbe (both Uganda).

Lufthansa MD-11 freighters will fly to Nairobi, where Astral will then forward freight onto the other destinations. Astral, which has been operating since 2001, has a fleet of DC-9, Fokker 27 freighters, An-12 and Cessna Caravan aircraft.

Jade Cargo International, the Lufthansa Cargo and Shenzhen Airlines joint venture, is also concentrating on Africa. Twice-weekly flights from Shanghai using a B747-400ERF are routed through Shenzhen to Chennai and then via Sharjah to Lagos, the Nigerian capital.

The move comes as several Gulf airlines have recently followed a trend of committing additional resources to the African continent.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Qatar Airways Increases Flights to Lagos

Qatar Airways has expanded its operations in Nigeria by boosting the number of flights to daily services and upgrading aircraft on the Doha – Lagos flights to three-class Airbus A340-600s.

The new daily service replaces the two-class Airbus A330-200s on the route. The state-of-the-art A340-600s feature eight First Class seats in a 1–2–1 configuration, together with First Class lounges for premium passengers to relax and unwind.

In addition, there are 42 Business Class seats in a 2–2–2 seat layout, together with 216 Economy Class seats in a 2–4–2 configuration. With a fuselage length of 75 metres, the A340 is the world’s longest passenger jet, a full three metres longer than the Airbus A380 superjumbo.

By increasing capacity from five flights a week to daily, the extra services on the route will provide passengers with more choice and increased connectivity to a number of key business and leisure destinations via the airline’s Doha hub to Qatar Airways’ extensive route network across Europe, Middle East, South Asia, Far East and North America.

The three-class configured A340 aircraft also offer passengers with an enhanced in-flight experience. For the first time on the Lagos flights, passengers will have the choice of flying in Qatar Airways’ First Class premium seats converting into fully flat 180 degree beds every day of the week.

Cargo capacity on the Airbus A340-600 offers an additional 40% more capacity over the previously used A330-200s operating the route.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Emirates' 2009 expansion plan

Emirates Airline unveiled plans to grow the number of flights across its network by 14 per cent in 2009. This year, the Dubai-based carrier will add 18 new passenger aircraft to its fleet, increasing seating capacity by 14 per cent and enabling it to start new routes as well as increase frequencies on many existing routes. It will also expand cargo capacity by 17 per cent.

The additional frequencies will affford passengers a greater choice of flights, more frequent connections with their target markets and shorter, more convenient connection times.

Emirates currently has a fleet of 129 wide-bodied aircraft. By the end of the 2008-09 financial year, that figure will stand at 132, including four superjumbo Airbus A380s. The carrier will welcome a further seven A380s in fiscal year 2009-10, as well as 10 Boeing 777-300ER, one 777-200LR and one Boeing 777 freighter.

Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al-Maktoum, chairman and chief executive, Emirates Airline and Group, said: "Next year is not going to be an easy ride for the airline industry. We have prepared the best we can for the challenges we foresee, but we also see it as a time of opportunity. This year, with our significant capacity increase, will be a year of consolidation for us, with fewer new routes launched than in previous years.

Emirates' fastest growing markets are Africa and the Middle East. The airline recently added a second daily flight to Lagos. It will also introduce services from Dubai to Durban flights, South Africa on October 1.

Last month, Emirates announced a vast Middle East expansion plan, taking the number of seats in the region to 50,000 on 180 flights a week. Additional flights to Amman, Riyadh, Jeddah, Kuwait and Damascus were started recently.

Emirates has added 32 weekly flights to its existing Indian services since November.

As new aircraft come online for both Los Angeles flights and San Francisco flights - Emirates' newest routes, launched in October and December - will go from thrice weekly to daily from May.

There is increased capacity to Australia, with additional daily flights to Brisbane and Melbourne, taking the total number of flights a week to 63. Later this year, a third daily flights to Sydney will be added. In February, Emirates became the first carrier to operate commercial A380 flights to New Zealand with the launch of its Dubai-Sydney-Auckland flights.

Plans are also afoot to deploy superjumbos on Dubai-Seoul and Dubai-Singapore flights in November and December respectively. The first A380 flight between Dubai and Seoul's Incheon International Airport will depart in November, while the Singapore service will start in December and initially run four times weekly.

In Europe, Emirates has already embarked on an expansion programme. In recent months it has increased services on the Larnaca-Malta route to seven times weekly, commenced double daily flights into Milan, increased Istanbul services to 11 flights a week, and Nice flights to five times weekly. Second daily services into Moscow and Athens are also planned.

In total, the additional capacity will see more than 8,635 seats and around 600 tonnes of cargo capacity added to the Emirates fleet.

Established in October 1985 with flights to Karachi and Mumbai, Emirates Airline today directly serves 101 cities in 61 countries. Last October, the Emirates dedicated Terminal 3 at Dubai International Airport opened. In 2008, 22 million Emirates passengers passed through Dubai International Airport - an 11 per cent increase on 2007.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Aviation reforms: A most need in Nigerian system

It is one thing to have airports within a given region momentarily closed to air traffic due to severe thunderstorms, hurricanes or even tornados.
It is however another thing to momentarily suspend airport operations due to low visibility weather minimums which are as a result of fog only. Time and time again, and even recently, has the latter been the norm and practiced in the Nigeria Airspace by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA).
While both procedures are meant to maintain safety in the airspace, one is totally irrelevant in currently owned technologies around the globe primarily in commercial or corporate flights but is essential for general aviation flights anywhere in the world that are not equipped with the Glass Cockpit.
It is no news to say that Nigeria possess one of the least effective air transportation equipments insitu aircrafts or at her airports when ranked in the world.
In an article written by Wole Shadare on March 12, 2009, passengers were stranded over bad weather at airports as NCAA was said to warned airlines, pilots on flight conditions due to bad weather experienced at some airports the day before.
The reason was because visibility was very poor, which made it difficult for aircrafts to land in Lagos, Kaduna etc. One continues to see situations like that year after year since my days while working with the defunct Nigerian Airways Limited nearly twenty years ago.
Passengers stranded at airports around the country because of poor weather visibility? Excuse me? Not these days when about the same number of years or even longer, the Glass Cockpit has been the order of the day in the western world!
Taking a lesson from the developed world such as United States of America, Europe and Asia, bad weather could mean heavy snow, severe thunderstorms, tornados, hurricanes and many adverse weather related situations, but certainly, no visibility issues can prevent the western passengers from taking care of businesses as airlines go on their normal flight schedules.
Comparing the adverse weather condition one experiences in Nigeria, and perhaps I may say; only severe thunderstorm may cause similar scenarios like that of the developed world.
Other than that and sad to say the NCAA may cause unnecessary delay of Nigeria flights due to both lack of adequate equipments on board their Nigerian commercial aircrafts and at the airports because the two go hand in hand.
This is by no means the NCAA's fault because it is only a regulatory unit of the Aviation Ministry and doing its job of maintaining safety in the airspace using available tools at their disposal.
In this business, the developed world has conquered visibility issues with highly sophisticated equipments incorporated as instruments such as; Electronic Flight Instrument Systems (EFIS). Their Autoland systems are categorized in three stages due to the integrity of the auto-pilot systems.
The categories in order of priority are: CAT 3B, CAT 3A, and CAT 1. CAT 1 is the equivalent to what is flown by most if not all Nigerian airlines. It is important to note that for an aircraft to fly CAT 3B, the airport most be equipped with Instrument Landing Systems and certified as a CAT 3B Airport.
With aircraft Auto Pilot Systems calibrated and certified for CAT 3B, weather visibility could be zero and flights would land and take off without much cognizance to it.
The future seems promising that Arik Air may be one of the few airlines (if any) to be equipped with EFIS on their currently purchased aircrafts. One cannot say if their aircraft are certified for CAT 3B etc. Even if they were, they could not utilize these features at the Nigerian airports because these airports are yet to be upgraded as at today!
Until the airports are also equipped with modern Instrument Landing Systems (ILS) to commensurate with compatible systems interactivity, a "one way system" simply becomes redundant despite having these equipments on board the Arik Air aircrafts.
Most airliners in Nigeria use "inventive" analog instruments which cannot perform these functions, consequently bridging the adaptability of the airports for aircraft equipped with EFIS and Autoland systems.
Until our leaders come to light with these changing technology, which of course is technology that is over 15 to 20y years old, and begin to invest in the future of air travel in Nigeria, it may be a little too late to try to catch up when Nigeria eventually becomes isolated.
Nigeria is blessed with great weather at the envy of the most parts of the world, This is no excuse as to why or perhaps that is why we do not seem to want to be focused in investing in the future for our children and generations to come.
It is time to invest in our infrastructures in aviation for the future to avoid not only being isolated by the rest of the world but disasters as well that may be due to lack of better equipments.
For the economists out there, imagine the implicit and explicit costs in millions if not billions of Naira involved when business travelers cannot get to their destinations due to avoidable weather minimums? It is time to reform, I mean Honest Reforms of aviation systems in Nigeria.
In my first series article few weeks ago, I wrote about the need to get Nigerian airports up to date, to conform to 'First Class' technologies around the globe.
This move should be urgent, to serve both the immediate short-term as well as the long-term needs, and would prepare Nigeria for the 20st Century and beyond in aviation related developments. Until this happens, air carriers in the country will not see the incentives to purchasing the kind of aircraft that is commensurate with today's global technologies, let alone the safety component, which has the cumulative effect of affecting tourism either ways.
This month's article presents the 'corner stone' long-term reform Nigeria needs. The issue of Knowledge Management in Nigerian Aviation Systems particularly in the training and upkeep of engineers, pilots, air traffic controllers and other trades should be a top priority in any reforms that should take place in Nigeria.
This is where a routine systematic flow of new breeds of professionals into the market of; aircraft engineers, pilots, and air traffic controllers be one of government's main priority as products of the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology (NCAT) Zaria. For those already in practices, managing their knowledge base is collectively both their individual responsibilities and that of their employers.
In March 25, 2009 edition of The Guardian, news writer Wole Shadare reported that The Aviation Minister, Babatunde Omotoba, "has decried the alleged low level of aircraft repairs and maintenance operations in the country, saying his ministry and the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) were fashioning ways of attracting reputable overseas hangar maintenance companies into the country".
Further report stated that the Director General of NCAA, Harold Demuren, said "Nigeria's civil aviation sector was fast-growing, with a number of aircraft acquisitions and emergence of younger generation of aircraft in the fleet of several carriers… that the development posed several challenges, including MRO, which drains the airlines' finances".
One has to stop and ask the minister what would be his administration's first step to stop that trend! Certainly, no word of mouth is going to accomplish anything without getting to the root of the problem and begin to make incremental steps to stop such trend!
Surprisingly though, for the minister to say the situation is "…alleged low level of aircraft repairs…" means that he does not show absolute convictions the problem exists. Such statement is cause for worry among aviators who long have concluded Nigeria is in a serious predicament when it comes to aircraft maintenance and related costs that is plaguing Nigeria's already fragile aviation industry.
My solution is, reform the NCAT Zaria to one that truly fulfills its mission and expand the horizon for the future of the air carriers' intended man power. It is important to again "lay the foundation" for the future even if the fruits are unnoticeable during the minister's terms in office.
In August of 2006, the then Rector- Engr. (Mrs.) M.F.A. Odutola rightly stated in her speech that from the early 1990s through 2000 training activities virtually came to a halt, only to see 30 student pilots graduated in 2004, roughly 10-12 years later after enrollment for a 2.5 or three years programme.
Although, she indicated her regime was instrumental to those students who finally "saw the light and exited the tunnel that 2004, her administration planned to turn things around. She lamented on: "obsolete training equipment/facilities, decaying infrastructure, demoralized workforce, poorly trained instructors, severe instructional staff attrition, generalized state of apathy in the College".
Here you have it Hon. Minister! Even when the hangers come rolling from foreign investors, who will do the jobs? If you are counting on man power from foreign nations too, such man power will not fly to Nigerian shores without "fat" contracts! Then the money you anticipated saving the air carriers would just be a myth. Candidly, no investor will embark on such investment when local man power is not in sight. This goes to say that rhetoric alone can not reform Nigerian aviation problems.
However, I have to commend the minister for at least identifying one of the problems that are facing Nigerian airlines today.
In conclusion, the famous saying that "charity begins at home" applies to everything we do. Investors look for softer grounds where they put a few dollars and reap great profits. No foreign investor or even local ones are that generous to take on a national problem as theirs and try to solve the ills of Nigerian Aviation Systems.
In economics, the laws of supply and demand are not for nothing. When the demand is there, supply follow and vice-versa. There is no doubt in question that there is considerable demand for Maintenance Repair Organization (MRO) in Nigeria because airlines have paid over the roof for heavy maintenance on their aircrafts abroad.
These types of maintenance, which requires hangers, are mandated by the NCAA Federal Aviation Regulations, as well as the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and are capital intensive.
If you are in this business as an air carrier, no one should tell you how involved your capital can be, because this is serious business. It is true that our leaders have downplayed the importance of sustainable aviation systems for too long, as evident by allowing the collapse of Nigeria Airways Limited and currently in the making of a virtual collapse of Nigerian College of Aviation Technology, Zaria.
We are beginning to see the pitfalls, and these are going to get worst as time elapses until reform is made to begin to counter the demise of this great industry.
For the records, Nigeria College of Aviation Technology, Zaria has played vital role in producing pilots, engineers, traffic controllers and many more trades in the African Continent citizens including the author of this article.
It is not for one to say if our leaders honestly think through when tackling problems within their domain, or the problems are just too big making tackling them impossible. One of the problems Nigeria face today is that of frequent change in ministerial leadership which at times appear "without cause" like the so-called minister reshuffle?
However, despite these changes, 'set goals' for the ministry can be achieved irrespective of who is at the helms of affairs as long as there is the honesty, desire and dedication to ensure just that.
For the Nigerian aviation systems to remain relevant to her citizens, customers both locally and abroad, or creating the investment atmosphere for maintenance hangers in the country for effective airline operation and efficiency, the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology, Zaria must overcome the following challenges: funding, research and development but most importantly, be affordable for all interested Nigerians who want to such lines of professions.
Immediate reforms, I mean honest reforms have to happen at this training center and our aviation systems at large.

Airline goes extra mile to satisfy passengers

Forty extra seats will become available in the economy class of Qatar Airways’ Airbus A340-600 aircraft from September this year as the national carrier implements plans to remove its first class lounges.
The overhauling of the national carrier’s four A340s follows an “airline evaluation”, which revealed the “usage of the lounges was low”.
The removal of the first class lounge in the A340 would provide room for as many as 40 seats in economy – taking the total to 256 from the existing 216.
In a statement to Gulf Times yesterday Qatar Airways CEO Akbar al-Baker said the removal of the first class lounge would not affect the first and business class segments in the four Airbus A340-600 aircraft in the national carrier’s fleet.
There are eight first class and 42 business seats in Qatar Airways A340-600s, which are now being in flights to London, Lagos and Paris flights.
The A340-600 is among the world’s longest passenger jet with an overall fuselage length of 75m.
Al-Baker said: “We remain committed to our premium passengers offering the highest levels of service in an economic climate where many airlines around the world are cutting premium seating capacity.
“As part of Qatar Airways’ continued commitment to meet the needs of the travelling public and ensure more efficient use of the aircraft, we are expanding our economy class cabin across our Airbus A340-600 fleet of aircraft.
“The decision follows a careful evaluation in which we found that usage of the lounges was low. The lounges provide passengers with a chance to sit and relax together on comfortable sofas during the flight in the ambience surroundings of a cocktail bar.
“However, our in-flight passenger surveys have shown that these lounges are not utilised as much as we had expected by passengers, who instead preferred, to relax in our premium seats during their flight.”By introducing the premium lounge in the Airbus A340-600 aircraft in 2006, Qatar Airways became the first airline in the world to do so.
“This innovative move will remain part of our track record as a premium airline which always wants to go the extra mile to satisfy passengers. We continue to innovate and as we expand our business, we will introduce more and more unique in-flight service features for our passengers,” al-Baker said. During 2009 alone, Qatar Airways is boosting capacity - in terms of seats, frequency, aircraft numbers and destinations. The national carrier has announced seven new routes this year – two each in Australia, India and Europe and one in the US.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

A Romance With Revolution?

I have just returned from Nigeria fuming and furious. "So what?" You may want to ask. That is what we experience each year when we go through the hustle and bustle of Nigeria's hard life. You start from the airport with the friendly immigration officer asking you "What did you bring for us?" You pass through the customs checkpoint. It's a hustling task when they figure out that you are not frequently in Nigeria trading on contrabands. The rest is routine when you finally end up in the heat of the day away from the feeble air-conditioning system of Murtala Muhammed Airport.

We return from Nigeria fuming and furious. Same procedure as every year! This year though, I was mad at the system. Never before have I come to accept the notion that the only way forward for Nigeria is a revolution. A popular uprising! Ask anyone who knows Nigeria - from Nigerians to sympathizers! All you hear is that the country needs a revolution. Ask Nigerians in Nigeria. Hear the anger about the politics of geographical divide and tactical repositioning. Hear the many journalists and intellectuals who are disappointed at the one last hope they see in individual politicians. Many speak out clearly about the impending collapse of the Nigerian project. Many pray for coup d'etat and many hope for a spontaneous uprising. Indeed many worked towards one on the exit of Olusegun Obasanjo.

I returned from Nigeria fuming and furious strongly believing that the time has come to stage a revolution. The long expressway from Lagos to Benin in its dilapidated state with bumpy holes and scores of extorting police checkpoints was not my problem. No. You can scale through it these days, with regular flights connecting the nation. The deadbeat power sector and the incessant power cut that hardly gives you a breathing space was not my problem. No. Kwara state now seems to be signaling a way out with its state financing of the gas powered system initiated by the Obasanjo administration. Kwara state has been able to celebrate one good month of Uninterrupted Power Supply. Water supply is not the problem because the drilling of boreholes has provided us the badly needed respite these days.

I returned from Nigeria straight into witnessing the meeting of the G20 group of Nations and swallowed the pride that once characterized the stature of the Giant of Africa that was christened in the 1970s.

The G20 is the group of the world's Top-20 economically viable nations. An offshoot of the G7 that was hitherto the group of most industrialized economies. The G7 was once elevated to the group of 8 in the admittance of the Russian Republic. Today G20 stretches from Brazil, through China to South Africa. South Africa like Nigeria has been laying claims to a permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council whenever an expansion of the apex body is up for grabs. Today we know that Nigeria has no justification of any sort for claiming to have the credentials to represent Africa with a ramshackle economy built on a foundation of sand.

The years were promising after independence. Former military leader General Yakubu Gowon once proclaimed that "Money is not our problem but how to spend it." That was way back in the seventies and the strength of Nigeria then was not systematic development planning alone. Popular mindset was focused on development as well.

The infrastructures seemed to have been set on a progressive footing. It could only get steadily better. That was before Nigeria got plunged into a futile experiment in democracy headed by a Phantom of the Opera named Shehu Shagari who was left colorless and surrounded by hounds and thieves of the greatest order. One prominent name was a Transport Minister in monumental corruption. His name was Dikko. Umaru Dikko.

Today we have another Umaru in a shift of gear and positions. This time in the person of a President as colorless as ever! He is not known for corruption but hardly does his best to bring corruption in the periphery to its utmost minimum.

If the G20 was further expanded today, Ghana would join the fold. Many micro-states that looked up to Nigeria years ago, for their own economic survival have now left us in a position of the artistic mimicry of economic realities.

Our leaders remain blind and insensitive. They advocate the removal of subsidies on fuel knowing the domino impact it will have on public life. They leave refineries in scruffy states pouring wealth on several years of fuel importation leaving us with the promising memories of years in which money was not the problem. Our leaders choose to import power generators to power a whole city rather than take on the task of consolidating a power sector.

Three basic and simple infrastructures - power, water, road network - that we needed for development have now become the single basis of our continued backward drift. Foreign investors pull out of Nigeria heading for neighboring states citing the state of our infrastructures. Umaru man is like non-existent. Men of action that stirred up hope in the regime of Olusegun Obasanjo have been replaced by managers of depletion. No more Iwealas, Ribadus or El-Rufais. The virtue of meritocracy does not seem to exist in any Nigerian dictionary. Not even the office of the governor of the Central Bank is spared the ethnic debate. Two years on, what seems to count under Umaru man seems to be ethnicity and hardly capability. Power shift from South to North and perpetually!

I came from Nigeria fuming and furious truly believing that the time was now ripe for a revolution. I took my keyboard and began typing my message. I called on Nigerians to take up arms. Arise and topple the system. I hate a military coup because the end would be unpredictable and power may end in the wrong hands. There will be no assurance of a Rawlings impact. I thought of the Orange revolution - Ukrainian style - and the tactic of organizing local committees under Union auspices to lay the groundwork for a long-term revolution.

I came from Nigeria fuming and furious but soon realized I needed a deep breath. Crucify me and condemn my stance for all I care. But the truth is one more thing that stands loud and clear.

A revolution we need! But what if we truly had a revolution? When I had a second thought though, the aftermath of a revolution even gave me even more jitters.

I took a closer look at Ukraine. I took a closer look at Georgia. Where are the assurances that Nigeria would be different? The easiest part of the equation may lie in the planning of a revolution and the culminating festive mood of history in the making, no matter the potential loss of lives.

Revolutions usually commence with hopes. High hopes and dreams of a lofty future. The end in almost all cases is disappointment. When lives are lost, they go in vain to serve the dreams of the new ruling class. The dream was hijacked in Ukraine in the post-orange era. The dream was hijacked in Georgia and many more countries like it. Nigeria may be worse.

The volatility of Nigeria lies in its ethnic multiplicity that hardly leaves room for a cohesive bond to foster collectivity. Czechoslovakia split up into the Czech Republic and Slovakia in the aftermath of a revolution. Ukraine is overtly and potentially locked in the risk of regional splits along "pro and anti-Russian" lines. What would Nigeria look like?

Are we doomed? Are we cursed? What do we do? Where do we head?

I am back from Nigeria fuming and furious. I ask myself if today's President of Nigeria can sincerely claim to have the interest of Nigeria at heart or the interest of the north. What has Umaru Musa Yar A'dua achieved in two years than shifting the balance of geographical distribution in political power?

The dire state of destruction is biting deeper. Corruption continues to thrive while the viable anti-corruption dragon was chased to the vampires. Smaller states are teasing and jeering at Nigeria. If Obasanjo disappointed hopes invested in him Yar A'dua is turning out to be killing hopes in broad daylight.

Incompetence, inconsistencies and outright betrayal of national trust are cladded in unguided and unplanned pronouncements. "Emergency in the Power Sector" - a mirage! "Reform of electoral process" - mockery of Uwais! Many more examples expose the pathetic mindset of the present administration.

In a world, in which a government consistently sets itself the worst of all priorities in absolute insensitivity to the troubles of the masses, it is questionable if governmental actions are not in themselves the real incitement to rebellion and treasonable felony.

Fashola has demonstrated a considerable image of what it takes when a government sets out to act. Is this any example for the chaps in Abuja?

What second term does Yar A'dua seek? Sickness aside! Ethnicity aside! Does the interest of the nation matter at all?

Revolution is a solution. It may also quickly become a problem in itself for the cohesion of a promising nation. If it does happen though and Nigeria is plunged into an existential quagmire, the politicians will be to blame and the government of Umaru Musa Yar A'dua will not share the least

Focus turns to African market opportunity

Nigerian carrier Arik Air is on the lookout for more long-haul aircraft as it presses ahead with its international development unswayed by the economic crisis enveloping the globe.

The carrier's optimism is based on the growth opportunity it sees within Nigeriaand Africa, potential which has also caught the eye of other carriers keen to deploy capacity in a region relatively unscathed by the financial crisis.

"Nigeria has not been insulated [from the crisis]," explains Arik Air International managing director Michael Arumemi-Ikhide, "It's a cash economy, so we haven't felt the exacerbated feeling like the credit-dependent economies, but we haven't been excluded from it."

He says Arik'sdomestic and regional operations have not seen any weakening and its first international service, linking flights to Lagos to London Heathrow, is performing ahead of its expectations.

Arik began London flights in December, launching an ambitious international development plan which will see it add flights to Johannesburg and New York JFK flights in the second and third quarters respectively and serve 11 international points within five years. The new routes will come on line when it takes its second and third of three Airbus A340-500s,sourced opportunistically by taking over a former Kingfisher Airlines order last year. Arik is also looking to lease two A330s and is again linked to Kingfisher, which is looking to lease out two A330s.

"We are still going ahead with our growth," says Arumemi-Ikhide. "The opportunity is very different from what is out there [today]. In Nigeria you have a position where the passengers are under-served, which is different from say the transatlantic market where there is overcapacity. It is a perfect scenario for growth."

The potential has not escaped the attention of other carriers, notably from the Middle East where many have been ramping up their presence. In Nigeria alone, Emirates doubled its Lagos service to twice-daily in February Qatar Airways is increasing to daily and deploying larger A340s on its Lagos flights, while Etihad is planning to add both Lagos and Abuja this year.

"Africa is very important for us," says Emirates senior vice-president for Africa, Salem Obaidalla. While noting Africa is not untouched by the financial crisis, he says: "We are starting to see some recovery and improvement in the bookings."

Increased Middle East carrier competition, aided by the granting of new fifth and sixth freedom rights, was cited by Virgin Nigeria as one of the factors in its decision to suspend its long-haul operations earlier this year. It had been operating on the Lagos-London Gatwick route, but will focus on domestic and regional routes until it can secure more modern long-haul aircraft to enable it to better compete at the front end.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Lufthansa starts freighter services to Hyderabad

Lufthansa Cargo AG, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Lufthansa German Airlines, has started a weekly two-way freighter flight to Hyderabad from Frankfurt. The new flight augments the capacities already available on Lufthansa passenger flights.

According to Lufthansa Cargo regional manager (India and Middle East), Carsten Hernig, the German airline is the first to offer freighter service to Hyderabad. "With the new connections we can offer our customers very special routings to other fast growing markets," he said.

Though Lufthansa Cargo had been affected by the current recession, Hernig said its Indian operations were not impacted by “major adjustments of our flight schedules.”

Stating that India was still one of the most dynamic markets with high growth potential, he said Lufthansa's Chinese joint venture, Jade Cargo International, would also begin regular freighter services for the first time between China, India and Africa from April 15. The twice weekly flights from Shanghai would be routed through Shenzhen to Chennai and then via Sharjah to Lagos in Nigeria.

“With a lot of pharmaceutical products moving into the African continent, the new connection will benefit Hyderabad,” Hernig said at an event organised here to celebrate the launch of freighter service.

Chief executive officer of GMR Hyderabad International Airport Limited (GHIAL), PS Nair, said another international airline, Cathay Pacific, was also keen on starting freighter flights to the Rajiv Gandhi airport. “We can see a quantum jump in cargo handling in a couple of years,” he said, adding cargo movement from the Hyderabad international airport was expected to go up to 75,000 tonnes in 2009-10 from 53,000 tonnes in 2008-09.

Of the 53,000 tonnes of cargo handled last year, 30,000 tonnes were exported. The exports mostly comprised pharmaceuticals, solar panels and machinery.