Airlines Move to Cut Down Cost of Operations, Set to Acquire New Fleet - THISDAY
NOVEMBER 19, 2021
BY Chinedu Eze
The trend is beginning to change for Nigerian airlines as they begin to acquire brand new fleet, which saves fuel, has less maintenance cost and improves safety with hi-tech advancement.
At the on-going Dubai Air Show, two Nigerian carriers, Ibom Air and Overland Airways have ordered for brand new aircraft from Airbus and Embraer respectively, thus joining Air Peace, which has already started receiving its 13 brand new Embraer E195-E2.
On Monday Embraer announced a firm order from Overland Airways for three Embraer E175 regional jets.
Speaking at the Dubai Airshow, President and CEO of Overland Airways, Capt. Edward Boyo, said, “We are confident that this is the right moment to invest, as regional aviation is on an optimistic post-pandemic recovery. Our customers will really enjoy all comfort in the E175, and we appreciate our partnership with Embraer.”
Also on Tuesday, Ibom Air announced an order of 10 Airbus A220, which delivery would start from the first quarter of 2003.
The new aircraft, A220 burns 20 per cent lower fuel per seat compared to previous generation aircraft and flies to a range of up to 3,400 nm (6,297 km), offering performance similar to larger, single-aisle aircraft.
Ibom Air noted that the A220s have combination of a superior cabin product and low operating costs, which are a perfect fit for the airline’s network growth strategy and would help the airline offer its customers an unrivaled value proposition.
Industry observers said this is a significant break from the past when domestic airlines do with already existing fleet and with the new trend, entrants into the sector would take a cue from the operators.
Over a decade after the defunct Nigeria Airways Limited acquired new aircraft, Arik Air broke the jinx and acquired brand new aircraft for its fleet and after many years, Air Peace which joined the market in 2014 began to acquire brand new fleet, which its delivery started early this year.
The airline had earlier made firm order for Boeing 737 MAX, which order still subsists and the delivery of the aircraft, which had met all standard of safety certification, may begin in 2023.
The Director General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Captain Musa Nuhu, during the delivery of Air Peace brand new aircraft recently identified the benefits of new aircraft and expressed the wish that other airlines in Nigeria began to order new aircraft, which they have started doing.
Nuhu observed that it was not only ordering a brand new aircraft but the right size aircraft for the Nigerian market.
“That right size is as critical as being brand new because it further enhances the airline economics, you break even with much lower passengers, the operating cost are lower, your maintenance cost are lower, it is much easier. You can fly routes that and still come out even when you don’t have too many passengers. In addition to that, another factor we don’t realise, this new aircraft are environment friendly, less noise, less pollution,” he said.
Air Peace, Overland and Ibom Air acquired regional jets for the short and medium haul, which fit for domestic and regional markets like the West Coast.
While the airlines have to be commended for acquiring brand new aircraft, it has to be noted that old aircraft that are airworthy deliver as efficiently as brand new fleet.
This was noted by industry stakeholder and the Chairman of West Link Airlines, Captain Ibrahim Mshelia who argued that in technical terms brand new aircraft is as good as old ones.
“A brand new aircraft is same as an older aircraft in technical terms. An airworthy 30-year-old aircraft is same as an airworthy one-day aircraft in terms of the safety we require. Age is about the comfort features for passenger and crew and update that are mandatory are also done at the right times to remain airworthy. Many if not most people are afraid of flying here, anyway. They are so frightened the moment they enter the cabin to the point some can’t even find an obvious overhead hatch rack door handle,” he said.
But brand new aircraft does not only make economic sense because it is more fuel efficient, but there would be no heavy maintenance for a number of years, which would also save the airline money in addition to the fact that in the first five years, the manufacturers may be providing the spares for the new equipment.
Commending the patronage of Overland Airways, Embraer Commercial Aviation Vice-president for Europe, Middle East and Africa, Cesar Pereira noted: “We are proud of this partnership with Overland and to support their regional expansion. We are seeing growing long-term demand for right sized aircraft to deliver profitable domestic connections in Nigeria.”
On his part, the Chief Commercial Officer of Airbus, Mr Christian Scherer said, “We are thrilled to add Ibom Air as a new Airbus customer. The A220 is ideally suited to Nigeria’s aviation needs, providing operational flexibility, growing the business, and responding to demand for increased passenger services. Through this investment, Ibom Air is underscoring its ambition for regional and in due course, international connectivity, efficiency and versatility.”