Domestic airlines are tinkering with the idea of cutting down the number of large planes in their fleets due to soaring operation costs,
This is coming against the backdrop of experts analysis that large planes, which are mostly used for medium and long haul flights, are not good for Nigeria’s short haul domestic travel market.
Over the years, industry experts have been of the opinion that large jets are not economically viable for Nigeria’s domestic short haul sector with maximum flight time of 90 minutes and towering operating costs occasioned by high government taxes, among others.
Already, the 30 aircraft, which the government is planning to buy for the domestic carriers through a fresh intervention fund for the aviation industry, will all be short haul regional jets, according to sources close to the plan.
The planes, the sources said, would be mostly Embraer 120, 145, 170 and 190, which are all narrow-bodied regional jets.
Aside government’s plans to acquire aircraft for them, some airline operators are also making moves to introduce more regional jets into their fleets in order to boost their local flight operations.
In the future, domestic airlines may completely dump large jets for local flight operations due to the high operating costs compared to narrow-bodied aircraft, according to experts.
The experts, however, said this would take some years as majority of the carriers had acquired large jets, which would take a while to do away with.
Industry stakeholders recently commented on the need for Nigerian airline operators to use the right aircraft for their local operations.
The Chief Executive Office, Skyway Aviation Handling Company Limited, Mr. Olu Owolabi, said domestic carriers need to review the types of aircraft they were using for local flights, adding that unless this was done, some of them would continue to incur losses.
He also harped on the need to use smaller aircraft for certain routes that had less traffic.
Similarly, the Chief Executive Officer, Overland Airways, Captain Edward Boyo, recently said the need to cut costs had made airline operators to start realising the need to use smaller aircraft on most of the domestic routes.
He said, “I would say that wisdom is just beginning to come into the aviation industry in Nigeria. Professionalism has finally arrived. We realised that medium range aircraft are not really suited for the sector we have in Nigeria.
“Aircraft are designed for a purpose: we have long haul planes, medium haul planes, short haul planes, and we have special mission aircraft.
“There was a misfit in selection of aircraft by Nigerian operators of the past, whereby someone acquires a medium haul aircraft and uses it for a short haul operation or a long haul aircraft and uses it for a short haul operation.
“There is no way you can make money as operators that way. If we use the right equipment for the right purpose, we will achieve success. If you use the wrong equipment, the economics will not work. And that was one of the reasons that accounted for airline failures in Nigeria in the past.”
The Chairman, Air Nigeria, Mr. Jimoh Ibrahim, said airlines would find it difficult to make profit on local routes with the kind of aircraft they were using.
Ibrahim argued that Boeing 737 planes would be more profitable if they were used for medium or relatively long haul flights.