Is the future of Nigerian aviation a bright one?
Harrier airlines are a Nigerian start-up that will be attending AviaDev Africa 2018. As a new incumbent, we took some time to speak with the founder of the airline, Yemi Dada about his plans
JH: Can you introduce the business model of Harrier Airlines. What are your fleet and network plans and when are you planning to launch?
YD: Harrier Airlines is conceptualised to be a mixed service Airline which will complement the service Nigerian Airlines currently provide as well as operate unserved and underserved destinations in Nigeria at the start. We hope to develop a Network that will move people efficiently across Nigeria and from East and West Africa into Nigeria. We will be operating the Embraer E190 and 170 aircraft types. We have been working on our launch plans for a while especially trying to get our funding right and we believe all things being equal we can commence commercial operations by the last quarter of 2018
JH: What is your own background in aviation?
YD: I have been in the Aviation industry for about 26 years. I started as a trainee in a management consulting firm and rose to be an Associate Director. We provided advisory and technical management services to the Nigeria Airport Authority (NAA) which metamorphosed into the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) as well as Nigeria Aviation Handling Company (NAHCo). Nigeria Airways was also a client, we worked with the Directorate of Commercial Ventures and Investment led by Captain Allwell Brown to reorganise the Nigeria Airways Subsidiaries. Skypower Aviation Handling Company Limited (SAHCOL now Skyways) was our key success story on that assignment. We also provided advice to banks and started an Asset Management Company (Nexus Aviation) to lease aircraft to Nigerian operators. My team wrote the feasibility study for IRS Airlines which came to manage as the General Manager between 2006 and 2011 then as Managing Director from 2011-2014
JH: What needs to be done in the Nigerian aviation sector to unlock the obvious potential?
YD: The Nigerian Aviation sector requires Airlines that will develop products to make passengers fly and configure their operations in such a way that they can save as much as possible to be able to offer passengers fares that are competitive. We do not have the volume to have true low-cost carriers as yet as the passenger yield is not sufficient to continuously fill the 130-160 seater aircraft being operated now but with the right structure a serious carrier can continue to lower cost and be able to offer lower fares to stimulate passenger travel especially to destinations that current operators cannot fly to because of the kind of equipment they operate. The typical armchair approach of providing airplanes and providing on-time, safe service will only mine the same set of passengers which exist. New products need to be designed in partnerships with event promoters and tour operators to give people places to fly to.
JH: What makes you think Harrier can succeed where so many other airlines have failed?
YD: Harrier Airlines is being built from many years of experience taking into account the need for proper management, capacity development and a business plan that leverages our experience in other sectors like the digital media and e-commerce space to increase what we can earn from each passenger we serve. The Business model is not the regular Airline model we have around. Its very forward-looking.
JH: How do you feel the SAATM will affect Nigerian Aviation? Positively or negatively?
YD: The SAATM will eventually affect the Nigerian Airlines positively. We have a situation where the Nigerian domestic traffic to the international traffic is in the ratio of 70:30. If the operators develop the right strategy and work with Government the domestic traffic can double in about 6-7 years and traffic to the rest of Africa can grow because Nigerians are very industrious people, if they have an opportunity to trade, business travel to the continent will increase. We also have a healthy young generation that is adventurous and need to have the right product provided for them and they will travel. The Government should also continue with the drive to improve the infrastructure so that our airports become the preferred ports to enter or exit the African continent. Funding for Nigerian Airlines needs to be worked on in terms of access to the funds in the first place. It is almost impossible for a Nigerian Airline to raise money even from development institutions who are providing funds to airlines in east and central Africa. Institutions like proparco are supporting Airlines in East Africa, Ethiopian Airlines has been able to get funding from almost every institution from Afriexim, AfDB, and so on. Nigeria is the largest shareholder in the AfDB but Nigerian Airlines cannot access funds provided by AfDB while Airlines from other regions are being funded. This funding disparity along with the need to streamline taxes and charges should be the immediate concern for the Government and policy makers so that Nigerian Airlines can compete. Once this is done we will be well positioned to take advantage of the SAATM