New Nigerian national airline Nigeria Air expects to be issued its Air Operators Certificate (AOC) within the next two weeks. Should this be the case, the development would see the airline overcome a significant hurdle in its quest to commence operations in the first quarter of this year.
A delayed arrival
The long-awaited launch of commercial services could now be around the corner for the new Nigerian national airline Nigeria Air. The airline, set up by the administration of departing President Muhammadu Buhari, will receive its AOC in two weeks, according to the country’s minister of aviation, Hadi Sirika.
Should the AOC be issued, the startup airline will take one major step towards the certification finishing line after four years of struggling to get off the ground. Nigeria first announced its plans for a new national carrier in July 2018 but ended up suspending the project during the pandemic before reviving its plans in 2021.
Speaking to the Nigerian Observer, Mr Sirika said,
“Well, Nigeria Air will launch shortly. There is a process to establishing an airline, and that process is driven by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority. Nigeria Air applied for the Air Transport Licence, which has been issued, and now it is applying for an AOC. I believe that one week from today, it should be able to get the AOC issued or within two weeks maximum.”
Mr Sirika went on to add,
“That will signal the beginning of the establishment of the carrier itself, which can then begin flying. So, the airline is on its way, and it will be soon. It will be launched within this quarter, it will be flying within this quarter, and it will give Nigeria the service that has been eluding it.”
How close is Nigeria Air to launching?
Nigeria Air was granted its air operator’s license in June 2022 and formally announced Ethiopia Airlines as its core investor last September, taking a 49% share in the new airline. The flag carrier of Ethiopia is also expected to contribute its extensive operational expertise and possibly aircraft to the fledgling airline.
Photo: Markus Mainka/Shutterstock
Additionally, alongside Ethiopian Airlines, proposals expect 46% of the new carrier to be held by private Nigerian investors, with just 5% in the hands of the Nigerian government.
The naissant carrier has previously announced its aim to commence flights no later than May 29th, 2023, the day incumbent Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari leaves office.
However, the prospect of an overseas investor taking such a large share in the new airline has ruffled the feathers of several other Nigerian carriers.
Members of the Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON), which includes including Azman Air, Air Peace, MaxAir, United Nigeria Airlines, and TopBrass Aviation, filed a lawsuit in November 2022 against four defendants – Nigeria Air, Ethiopian Airlines, Aviation Minister Hadi Sirika, and Nigeria’s attorney-general, Abubakar Malami.
The lawsuit claims that the ownership arrangements of the new carrier give it an unfair advantage and claims that Nigerians should wholly own any new national airline. The court is due to hear the case on February 13th, around the same time Nigeria Air expects its AOC.
Watch and wait
The following two weeks are likely to be busy for the management of Nigeria Air. Should the airline win in court and finally receive its much-coveted AOC, we could see Nigeria AIr flights starting very soon. Only time will show whether this is the case in this long-running saga.
Source: Nigerian Observer