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Experts canvass interline arrangements in local flight operation

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Murtala Muhammed International Airport

Experts in the aviation sector have reiterated the importance of interline agreements among local operators, to help them manage operational cost; optimise capacity and services to customers.

The professionals, who spoke at a public lecture and doctoral reception of Dr. Thomas Olaleye Ogungbangbe, in Lagos recently, said the survival of the airlines lies in their partnership instead of competition.

Interline agreements between airlines facilitate travel for passengers who require flights with more than one airline to reach their final destination.

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The term relates to the ability of one carrier to sell a journey, or part of a journey, on the services of another carrier, together with the procedures for settlement of the revenue owed to the carrying airline.

In the lecture titled: ‘Strategies and business performance of domestic airlines in Nigeria’, Ogungbangbe noted that the situation is currently dire for local operators despite efforts at marketing to the Nigerian public.

Ogungbangbe, who is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Cita Aviation Fueling Company, said despite the importance of marketing, airlines industry has been unable to grow, expand and be strong enough to attract more Nigerians to travel by air, and this has contributed to excess capacity or performance below capacity that leads to huge economic losses in terms of potential turnover of air travellers not captured as passengers by the airlines.

He said out of over 170 million population, about 15 million (that is, eight per cent) travel by air, whereas, a place Hong Kong, with 73 million has air traffic of 23 million.

It is against this backdrop that the current spate of competition among the operators, instead of helping their course, “is working against them”.

Ogungbangbe said: “Why are our airlines operating apart and in competition instead of cooperating? Why not interline instead of one airline running seven frequencies with about 50 per cent capacity? Fact is that 40 per cent capacity covers fuel alone, which means nothing is left.

“Besides, the airlines are selling tickets at cheap prices when Boeing has said that no flight of about an hour should be less than $100. These are some of the problems that improved partnership would have addressed, save the airlines from high mortality rate and also endear the passengers to effective and efficient air travel,” he said.

Managing Director of Asteriks, Charles Iloegbunam, at the panel discussion, said marketing strategies are not only to sell but also to assist customers to buy.

Iloegbunam said with the way flight operation is, amid one-too-many flight delays and cancellations, “the airlines are not helping passengers to buy”.

He advised the airlines on the importance of strategic partnership, while government should ensure enabling environment where tax is minimal and aviation fuel is available to the operators.

Chairman of the session and former CEO of ADC Airlines, Capt. Augustine Okon, said despite the importance of aviation to the economy, the sector had for so long been starved of intellectual content to match its problems and offer it possible solutions.

Okon said it, therefore, a delight to all sundry that the likes of Ogungbangbe are coming to the fore with intellectual content.

He said: “It is not just enough to come to aviation and make money, but must also affect it intellectually. I thank Dr. Ogungbangbe for investing the last four years in academic towards improving the lot of the industry.”

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