Capt. Roland Iyayi, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of TopBrass Airlines, a General Aviation (G.A) company in this Interview with Nairametrics, spoke about the charges and levies imposed on the airlines by government agencies and the challenges confronting the players in the sub-sector, especially as they pertain to infrastructure.
Iyayi is also a member of the Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON).
Nairametrics:A lot has been said about charges and levies imposed on the operating airlines in Nigeria, what is your view about this?
Roland Iyayi: Something tells me that these agencies are sitting on so much money forthe good and the growth of the airline industry.
So, there is a need to fundamentally review the fees and the charges of every agency in the industry to understand why, what they charge the airlines are excessive for cost recovery.
And if you do that to a large extent, you are paying for service commensurate with the quality you are receiving, and then it becomes clear that we won’t have money that is not due to the agency sitting somewhere.
And in any case, I believe that is the reason people in government think there is so much money in the aviation industry and they want to be here.
Nairmatrics: Do you think the aviation industry has experienced growth in recent times?
Roland Iyayi: The industry we have is not structured for growth. And the reason I say this is very simple. When the industry was deregulated in 1982, deregulation was intended to allow for more people to travel.
But, Nigerian Airways was not prepared because the airline then operated only huge capacity aircraft because of the size of the market, which they had a monopoly on.
What we have today are airlines that have evolved from the same point Nigerian Airways operated from.
Nairametrics: What is your say about the new Civil Aviation Regulations (NigCARs)?
Roland Iyayi: The Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) cannot have one size fits all for the Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC) certification process. Which by any means is still very cumbersome and it should be simplified.
The airline cannot be expected to be profitable, to be sitting on the ground, waiting for an AOC for 18 months.
The airline is not earning income, but it is required to pay the salaries of its staff for 18 months while the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) is busy trying to process the AOC.
That does not make sense. These are all bottlenecks that try to strangulate the airlines. The NCAA is not police and I am very happy that Capt. Musa Nuhu, the Director-General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) said that, too recently. The NCAA’s role is to focus on industry development and carry out safety oversight of all organisations in the sector.
Nairamterics: What do you have to say on the requirement of minimum of six aircraft for a startup airline by NCAA?
Roland Iyayi: The NCAA cannot focus entirely on its own side of the deal without looking at how to develop the industry. And those policies that are spewed out of the NCAA must be seen to be friendly for the growth of the industry.
So far, all the policies that are coming out of that agency negate growth. We will not have one airline coming on the system and if I have six airplanes, how many routes will be developed on the same day?
The cost of developing a route is very expensive. So an airline will only grow if it takes its growth plan piecemeal.
But unfortunately, when you say to me that I need six airplanes, and I only want to be going to Uyo from Lagos, what do I do with the additional aircraft that I have in my fleet?
So, I think it is important that the NCAA review those policies that are detrimental to the growth of the industry as a first step.
Nairametrics: Airlines in Nigeria have been accused of treating the consumer poorly, as a member of the AON, do you agree with this?
Again, in terms of growth, we need to have, from the airline side, we need to take care of our customers who in most times are the travelling public.
The consumers are complaining. And we listen to you because we know that the complaints are credible, however, when you look at the various problems that the airlines face, most of these issues are out of the hands of the airlines.
The delays you see most times sometimes are actually from the airport company. And why do I say that? I will give you a very simple example.
The first flight out of Lagos every morning, most times will go on time. The second flight of most airlines, most times, will incur a 30 to 40 minutes delay.
And why is that so? The very first flight in the morning is 6:30 and 7 o’clock.
There is absolutely no need for any delay because people are coming fresh in the day and everything is working according to plan, but on the second flight, at this point, you are talking about maybe three to four airlines going at the same time.
The facilitation point for passengers, the screening point for instance in the General Aviation Terminal (GAT) at the Murtala Muhammed Airport (MMA), Lagos, is only one.
When you have one facilitation point, it is almost impossible to facilitate four Boeing 737 aircraft, which is about 600 passengers within a 30-minute window for that flight to leave on time.
Whenever passengers complain, those complaints are usually focused on the airlines. Whereas the root cause of the problem is the airport company.
A lot of these issues are things that people on the outside cannot see. So, in dealing with this, the airlines should be talking about how to come together and ensure that the consumer is taken as king.
The reason they have to do this is to ensure that, as a passenger, you want to be able to travel from one part of Nigeria to another.
Ultimately you want to be able to buy a ticket from one airline and be able to travel on any airline.
And in doing that, domestic airlines are considering forming a domestic network alliance. It is an upgrade of what the Spring Alliance is.
Now, in doing this also, it is important that the enabling environment is provided for the airlines.
I think rather than having a national carrier, the industry could have put more effort into establishing a domestic network.
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