The Airline Operators of Nigeria on Thursday described the Federal Government’s investments in the rail sector as furious, as that this was currently making domestic carriers and some other players in the aviation sector jittery.
Reacting to the call for the development of other air routes across the country, the association stated that some of the routes might not be economically viable to airlines due to the development of some rail projects that might connect such routes.
Speaking on behalf of AON at the ongoing National Aviation Conference in Abuja, the Chairman, Air Peace, Allen Onyema, said, “The way this government is going with the rail (construction) so furiously, yes it pays the country, but I’m sure the airlines are shaking.
“This is because this government is actually investing in the rail projects so furiously. And when that comes on stream, it will also erode the opportunities of developing some routes, because if you do, the economics will not support what you are doing.”
Onyema, however, stated that domestic airline operators were in support of the ongoing rail sector development. “We have to be patriotic. We don’t have to be jealous that the government is trying to alleviate the transport woes of the public,” he stated.
He also noted that airlines were currently competing with some land transport firms that had upgraded their services.
The AON official said, “There is competition, this time not from fellow airlines but from the road transport. Some of them have perfected the art that they make it so cozy, bring beautiful buses with toilets, and put security men in the buses.
“So you have to compete with them and because it is cheaper, if not for the insecurity of these days, it would be a tough call to actually go into certain routes because you have serious competition from the road transport people.”
The domestic carriers decried the lack of government support, stressing that the three tiers of government should accord local airlines the required assistance to develop the routes to the various states.
“There’s a lack of government support. And this does not mean the Federal Government alone, the state governments should also be involved in this. Also, lack of adequate funding a greater bane,” Onyema said.
He added, “Some governors will say they don’t have flights into their states. You (governors) need to do something about it. The airline cannot shoulder that responsibility alone.
“It is too huge for any airline to bear. So you need the government support both at the federal and state levels, if possible at the Local Government level too.”
The Managing Director, Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, Rabiu Yadudu, assured the airlines that the government, through FAAN, and other government-owned agencies in the sector, would provide the required support to the carriers.
Yadudu also stated that the government was doing a lot in terms of support to both domestic and foreign airlines, as he urged the carriers to reciprocate by leaving up to the expectations set by the government.