The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has advised Nigerian airlines to key into the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) to deepen their operations across the continent.
Speaking at the 14th edition of Akwaaba African Travel Market, Vice President, IATA for Africa, Mrs. Adefunke Adeyemi recalled that SAATM was inaugurated by Heads of States of the African Union (AU) in January to deepen bilateral relations among countries and foster cooperation among the airlines.
The theme for this year’s aviation day was: ‘Is aviation in Africa making progress or in decline?
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 despite the presence of a viable trade on the routes.
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 percent 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.
She said it was regrettable that 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 Airline.
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 work towards securing the IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) certificate which would enable them play on the global stage.
Former Managing Director, Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Mr. Richard Aisuebeogun, said governments must find ways to address the infrastructural deficit in the aviation sector in Africa.
Aisuebeogun noted that upgrading of airport infrastructures would crash air fares and attract more investors to the sector.
He said until government deliberately makes air travel more seamless through liberalisation and ease in VISA procurement, we may not make progress.