New Telegraph

February 25, 2024

Insufficient aircraft hampers Nigerian carriers as flight delays, cancellations persist

Insufficient aircraft is a contributory cause of flight delays and cancellations by local carriers, New Telegraph has learnt. Nigerian airlines have been making headlines for the wrong reasons – flight delays and cancellations – in recent days, and not being able to deploy fresh aircraft whenever there are hiccups in their operations.

This, many industry observers believe, is confirmation that airlines are suffering from under capacity. In total, 77 airplanes by nine airlines are currently in service while several others are either grounded or undergoing lengthy maintenance procedures in and outside the country. Many have also been abandoned. The breakdown shows that Air Peace, adjudged the biggest airline in Nigeria and West Africa, owns 38 aircraft out of which 31 are in service.

The airline operates a diverse fleet of five A320 aircraft with some of them on lease and fully operational, 10B737 are also in service, three of the B737 are parked, two of the three B777 are in service, one parked; one Dornier 328, five Embraer-E2, Embraer 8 ERJ and three no longer in operations.

The new entrant, Green Africa Airways, operates three ATR72-600 aircraft with an average age of 3.5 years. Dana Air currently operates two B737 and three MD- 83 airplanes but has a total of 10 airplanes of which five are not in service. United Nigeria Airlines, which clocked one year recently, operates five aircraft: one A320 and four ERJ-145; Max Air has three B737 and three B747 that are parked on some airports. Overland Airways is said to own nine aircraft. But unknown as of press time is how many are in service and the number out of service. Nigeria’s oldest airline under the receivership of the Assets Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON), Aero, has eight aircraft, but currently operates five.

While Ibom Air, which has shown great promise since it started operation on June 7, 2019, operates two A220 which ages are two – three years, the carrier equally operates with four Bombardier CRJ-900 aircraft, making a total of six aircraft operated by the carrier; Arik Air which is also under the receivership of AMCON has 14 aircraft. Four of Arik’s aircraft are parked and undergoing maintenance while 10 are said to be in service. The available record shows that Azman has seven aircraft. Five of the seven comprise one fuel-guzzling A340 and four B737 aircraft. This brings the total number of scheduled aircraft in service in Nigeria to 82; a number said to be grossly inadequate for the air traffic, particularly during Yuletide and other peak periods. Most of the time, aircraft engines are hit by birds, following the prevalence of bird strikes in many of the airports.

The situation forces airlines to take the aircraft out of service for a long time, depending on how quickly the operator is able to import spare parts if they do not have the spares in store. Aviation security consultant and Secretary- General of Aviation Safety Round Table Initiative, GroupCaptainJohnOjikutu (rtd), told our correspondent that local airlines are operating small, with each having a few planes. He canvassed the merger of the airlines to ensure economy of scale. Ojikutu said in situations where they cannot merge they could interline and help each other through such cooperation.

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