The International Air Transport Association (IATA) on Tuesday urged Nigerian airlines to take advantage of the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) to expand their operations across the continent.
Our correspondent reports that Mrs Adefunke Adeyemi, Vice-President, IATA for Africa, gave the advice while speaking at the ongoing Akwaaba Travel and Tourism Fair taking place in Lagos.
Adeyemi said that SAATM was inaugurated by the Heads of States of the African Union (AU) in January to deepen bilateral relations among countries and foster cooperation among the airlines.
According to her, Nigerian carriers have right to fly into about 40 African countries and can establish hubs in these countries through negotiations and mutually beneficial air service agreements.
Adeyemi noted that no Nigerian carrier was flying to Chad and Niger Republic in spite of the presence of a viable trade on the routes.
She said it was unfortunate that the airlines were not taking advantage of the SAATM the way Ethiopian Airlines had done so far, including its entering into a technical partnership with Asky, based in Lome, Togo.
Adeyemi said African airlines should form alliances among themselves to improve their operations as well as profits, adding that some of them already belonged to international platforms like Star Alliance.
She added that the airlines should also strive to get the IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) certificate which would enable them to play on the global stage.
Adeyemi also decried the high cost of air fares in Africa which she attributed to excessive aviation charges by African governments and also the notion that air travel was exclusively for the rich.
“It is 45 per cent more expensive to fly across Africa than any other region in the world.
“That is why we are trying to let African governments know that is not an elitist means of transportation,” she said.
Also, Mr Wimpie Van Vuuren, Senior Manager, Air Namibia, said that in spite of the initial fears, SAATM had enabled the airline to expand its operations to Ghana and Nigeria.
He said African airlines should look beyond the initial challenges of the policy and find ways to make it beneficial to their operations.
On his part, Mr Richard Aisuebeogun, former Managing Director, Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), said governments must find ways to address the infrastructure deficit in the aviation sector in Africa.
Aisuebeogun noted that upgrading of airport infrastructure would not only help to reduce air fares but would attract more investors to the sector.