…calls for synergy, unity in the Industry
The Chairman, United Nigeria Airline (UNA), High Chief Obiora Okonkwo, has commended the federal government waiver regime for the Aviation Industry but called for a seamless access to the waiver.
Fielding questions from Aviation correspondents on Wednesday, Okonkwo acknowledged that there is a waiver regime which the Airline has benefited on the acquisition of its aircraft.
He however, said that the process of accessing the waiver was cumbersome and therefore, called on the government to make the accessibility easy and seamless.
His words: “Yes, there is a Customs duty waiver regime that exists for operators and we have benefited, especially from that regime for the acquisition of our aircraft.
“I know the regime exists, it is cumbersome to access and we are still battling to benefit from the spare parts regime. For every spare part, you have to go back and get a particular clearance.
“When you go to the Ministry of Finance, you have it, but there should be integration with the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS); when there is a misinterpretation of what it should be or what it ought to be, it is very frustrating for the operators.
“I want to commend the federal government here that the waiver regime and the policy are good for the Industry because if anything to the contrary is done, we will ground this Industry.
“Imagine if you were asked to pay 10 or 20 per cent as duties to Customs on every aircraft that you bring in; I will rather prefer to sell aircraft and make money than flying.
“But, accessing it easily and seamlessly will only justify the good intention of the government. So, all the government agencies that are relevant in this process should look into that; synchronise and synergise so that we can actualise the regime.”
Okonkwo announced that United Nigeria had airlifted 25, 000 passengers in its four weeks of operations but now an average of 3,200 passengers weekly.
He said the Industry is too large for everyone, so there was no need for envy or unhealthy competition but unity, collaboration and cooperation to build stronger carriers in the Country.
“The Nigerian market is huge but unfortunately we underestimate our ability and potential. I am an advocator of synergy in the Industry; people can merge together to get stronger for themselves.
“I think it’s a good way to reduce cost; you may have a spare part and mine has not come you lend me and I return after.
“We are open and willing to such co-operations. No need for any one to be envious, the Industry is huge and open to Mou,” the Airline Operator pointed out.
He further urged the Industry to come together to know how to educate the passengers in cases of delays and cancellation of flights.
Commenting on the recent hike in air fare, Okonkwo figured the high cost of aviation fuel and forex challenges as major factors.
He noted that if the cost of flight operation in the Industry was to be considered no amount will be too much for a ticket.
“Honestly speaking, looking at the way things are in this Industry there’s no amount you pay for flight that is too much.
“At times you fly full and come back empty so you have to consider that also. It’s also a function of demand.
Continuing, the Chairman noted that the cost component of aviation fuel is 30 t0 40 per cent, hence, of great concern.
“It is a great thing of concern. We started operation at N160. When you move from N160 to N270 within a space of two months, one ordinarily would expect that the minimum ticket sales almost increase with 50 per cent especially when the cost component is 30 to 40 per cent. It is a great thing of concern. I don’t know what is leading to that.
“However, for the Industry to remain stable, not even viable, certain cost components must have to be adjusted and the only way you take it back is through ticketing or cargo or courier.”
Commenting on the Airline’s plans, he said he wants United to be an employee invested Company that would be customer-driven.
In view of this, “UNA plans to consolidate on the domestic operations with the ERJ 145 aircraft and later do long-haul with more wide body aircraft,” explaining that the Airline would want to do something that would accommodate Nigeria’s passion of travelling with much luggage.
“UNA plans to consolidate on the domestic operations with the ERJ 145 aircraft and later do long-haul with more wide body aircraft.
“We have started with Embraer aircraft . It is convenient for us because we need to build our routes and passengers.
“As soon that is done and we are comfortable with it, we obviously go to our phase two. We are hoping we should increase air fleet very soon.
“We are looking at the next couple of two, three months, a lot of plans are already on the way. We have been happy so far and the responses we are getting from the market are positive”, the Chairman said.
He dropped the hint hat the Airline was in talks with the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) on acquiring land for a Maintenance Repair Overhaul (MRO) facility, adding that they were already in touch with some technical partners “and we have gone far.
“On take off we gave ourselves 24 months to be able to do our own C-check in our facility and also do for other airlines.
“Hence, we save ourselves forex and others in the Industry.”
Also commenting, Chief Operating Officer of the Airline, Mazi Osita Okonkwo said that the new entrant is strategic and ready to learn the ropes of efficiency airline business and service the people appropriately, also stressing that it is focused on unity of the Country.
He said: “Our moto is flying to unite which is both micro and macro. Micro in the sense that once you come to us, we have a promise that we take your destination and we move from there to unite different citizens and cultures in Nigeria.
“The unity we are talking about is an experience that we want everybody that fly with us to experience and enjoy.”
Chairman of United Nigeria Airlines, High Chief Obiora Okonkwor, (Middle ) flanked by the Chief Operating Officer, Nazi Osita Okonkwo, (right) and the Director of Administration, Mr. Linus Awute, during a media briefing at the Murtala Mohammed Airport, Lagos on Wednesday.