Few days ago, while speaking to aviation journalists, the CEO of Air peace Airline, Mr. Allen Onyema decried the lack of transit facilities in Nigeria’s international airports such as Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Lagos and Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.
According to the aviation entrepreneur, the absence of such sensitive facilities negatively affects the overall performance of indigenous airlines, especially those servicing regional and international routes.
This revelation has again brought into focus the deficiency and lack of indebt development in our aviation sector, which in turn is a factor limiting the growth of indigenous airlines. Transit arrangement is a trade custom in the aviation industry, where airlines take passengers from various take-off points to their hub usually in their home country.
Mr. Onyema cited an instance where his airline which plies West and Central Africa routes ought to bring passengers to its Lagos hub, before proceeding to other destinations, especially in long-haul trips.
Our checks in the two major international airports confirmed this lack of transit facility where passengers will stay until they board their next flight.
Also, another major challenge is the policies of Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) and Nigeria Customs Service (NCS). These two security agencies at the nation’s gateway do not yet segment or distinguish this class of passengers. In other countries they are made to wait in the transit facility until they are due to fly again. These segmentation means that these passengers are not treated in the same way as those whose final destination is Nigeria. For instance, passengers on transit are not expected to obtain visa and follow other procedures like those arriving in Nigeria as final destination.
Further, in Mr. Onyema’s view, “For Nigerian airlines to compete and benefit from the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM), we must upgrade our airports to include transit facilities and also immigrations should adopt a new policy that recognizes transit passengers”.
It is pertinent to say that for our indigenous airlines to grow, what is required is total government support by the provision of conducive environment. The airlines, despite the harsh operational factors, have shown the capacity to compete favorably well in the global aviation market. Therefore, as a matter of priority the government needs to improve the airport infrastructure.