Arik to establish national airline for Sierra Leone
According to The Nation, Frontline airline Arik Air is to establish a national carrier for Sierra Leone under a multi-billion dollar deal.
Leon Air will begin operations in July, barring last-minute hitches. It will be operated by Arik Air under a joint venture agreement (JVA).
The airline will, initially, be flying between Freetown and Heathrow in London, Arik Air Managing Director, Chris Ndulue said after Sierra Leone’s President Ernest Bai Koroma visited Arik’s facilities in Lagos.
He said the first phase of the operation would be carried out with two of the airline’s B737-800 airplanes on a wet lease arrangement.
Wet lease means Arik Air will supply the airplane, crew and also handle the maintenance, while an agreement on how the Sierra Leonean government pays will be worked out to suit both parties.
According to Ndulue, necessary papers and approvals have been sought, while licenses have also been applied for.
“The new airline has a board and I happen to be a member. Arik Air has the controlling stake in the joint venture. The new airline also has a Managing Director. We will use the B737-800 for the services. The airline has already applied for slots and approvals to commence direct flight services between Freetown and London Heathrow. The number of frequencies and other destinations will be worked out with by Leon Air and the Sierra Leonean authorities. We will register about three or four airplanes with the Civil Aviation Authority of Sierra Leone so that we can easily joggle airplanes in the event that the initial two have to be withdrawn for maintenance or something,” he stated.
Ndulue said Koroma was impressed with the top-level facilities the airline has, stressing that concerted efforts are on to ensure the success of the joint venture.
Ndulue also frowned at the multi-designation of foreign airlines on lucrative routes in Nigeria, describing it as a development capable of strangulating existing domestic carriers. He thus urged the government to involve the airlines in meetings where Bilateral Air Services Agreements (BASA) are signed or deliberated upon.
“Multi-designation weakens domestic airlines because routes where they fly to feed international airlines, they lose it and when you lose it, in translates to revenue loss. From constant revenue loss, your operations shrink because the lucrative routes are gone.
That’s why various countries’ government are careful in signing BASA agreements. They are bent on protecting their own airlines. So, they hardly embrace multi-designation and that’s why we should stop it in Nigeria. We have made this known to the Ministry of Aviation and the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA). It should be stopped,” he stated.
Meanwhile, the Chief Executive Officer of Dana Air, Jacky Hathiramani, has been named the ‘Airline CEO of the Year 2010’ at the air transport award in Nigeria – the Nigeria Aviation (NIGAV) Awards. The ceremony was held on Saturday, March 12, at the Ocean View Restaurant, Victoria Island, Lagos.
According to the NIGAV Awards Committee, Hathiramani clinched the award for his exemplary leadership and passion for excellence which has seen Dana Air grow to become one of Nigeria’s leading airlines in just over two years of its operations, and his outstanding contributions to the growth and development of the aviation industry.
In his response, Hathiramani expressed appreciation to the organisers of the award for the honour bestowed on him and re-iterated his commitment to steering Dana Air to enviable heights, not only within the local travel industry but on the regional and international front too. He also pledged to continue to work with relevant government agencies and other stakeholders on programmes that will better the lot of the industry and the travelling public.
Initiated in 2007, the NIGAV Awards is an annual event held to recognise those companies and individuals that have made outstanding contributions towards the development of the aviation industry and related activities in Nigeria. The award aims at promoting development and healthy competition among players in the industry. It encourages best practices, helps continuity in aviation programmes and enhances air transport trade.
This year’s award was themed ‘Expanding Air Transport Business Opportunities’ and had in attendance notable aviation personalities such as the Director-General of the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Dr. Harold Demuren, who gave the key note address on the essence of maintaining high level customer-centered air transport services.
Kelvin Osa-Okunbor, The Nation
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