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Festus Keyamo To Nigerian: Our Airlines Will Soon Start Flying US, S’America Routes

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Festus Keyamo
Festus Keyamo

The Minister of Aviation and Aerospace Development, Festus Keyamo, said the Federal Government has commenced the process of empowering Nigerian airlines to have direct access to International routes to the United States and South American countries.

Keyamo stated this in a YouTube interview with O’tega Ogra titled, “Unfiltered: The Big Interview” which was viewed by our correspondent on Saturday.

On March 20, Air Peace commenced its Lagos-London flight services, but during the YouTube interview, Keyamo said the government is putting plans in place for local airlines in the country to commence direct flight operations to both the US and South America.

He said, “BASA are negotiated between different sovereigns. So it is when you get your BASA and your reciprocal rights, you can now give it to your local operators and ensure that they are enforced as per the foreign entities. So we did that; we wrote several letters; we travelled back and forth because we knew that that was what we could use to bring down prices. The only thing that can bring down prices in any market is competition. It is not a monopoly.

“British Airways have enjoyed those routes for so many years unchallenged. There were attempts by local airlines in the past to run the routes, but they muscled them out of the routes. That was why Nigerians were buying tickets for as much as N15m to N16m at some points, business class tickets just for to and fro. So we saw that this was an issue we could easily resolve.

“So we put our foot on the ground, dusted off the BASA, and ensured that they (BASA) were respected. And when they (foreign airlines) later conceded that Air Peace could start flying the routes, we knew we had achieved something. You saw the immediate results as prices began to dip. But that’s not the only lucrative route we have in Nigeria, we have other routes coming up.

“We are looking at the American routes and the South American routes. Nobody is even flying to South America at all now. But something is in the offing for us to start that route now. That is just one aspect of helping them (Local airlines) to enforce the BASA by telling the countries that these are our flight carriers so that they can respect them as Nigeria representatives, not as just private businesses in the country. But the second aspect of that is to ensure that these airlines can also have the capacity after giving them the routes,” he explained.

He noted that aside from ensuring that the local airlines have access to international routes; the Federal Government is also looking at how to enhance their capacity to service the routes.

According to Keyamo, “One thing is to give them the routes, but how do we enhance their capacity to service those routes? One way of doing this is to ensure that they also have access to aircraft in the same way that these big airlines around the world have access to aircraft.

“What we have now is a lower capacity to access those aircraft, not to buy them. I have said it many times that no airline in the world buys its fleet 100 per cent. They don’t buy; they lease. So these big airlines you hear about and see with so many fleets; they didn’t buy them; 80 per cent of their planes are on dry lease.”

Credit: punchng.com

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