Nigeria’s plan to float a new national carrier after the defunct Nigeria Airways got the right impetus on Wednesday as the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika announced that the national airliner christened: ‘Nigeria Air’ will commence operation in the first quarter of 2022.
Sirika made this known while speaking to journalists after the weekly Federal Executive Council meeting in Abuja, presided over by Vice-president Yemi Osinbajo.
“The new national carrier is expected to be a viable airline and is potentially poised to cater to millions of travelers in Nigeria and Africa,” the Aviation Minister said.
Sirika added that the private sector-run airline will be in operation by early 2022, providing Nigerians the opportunity to pay cheaper rates for their air travel.
The Minister said the Covid-19 pandemic had slowed initial plans, leading to a postponement of the planned date initially set for late 2021 for the establishment of the national carrier.
According to Sirika, his Ministry will submit a memo with an outline business case to the federal executive council in two weeks for approval.
The New Diplomat recalls the Federal Government had in July 2018 unveiled the name and logo of the proposed carrier at the Farnborough International Public Air show in London, United Kingdom (UK) ahead of the planned initial take-off on December 24 of that year, even though it was stalled.
It was reported that the national carrier project will be private sector-driven, with the government holding not more than 5% of the shares.
The private sector consortium is likely to comprise reputable international airlines, leasing companies, aircraft manufacturers, financial, and institutional investors.
In November 2020, the Aviation Ministry announced it had earmarked funds for the establishment of Nigeria Air within its NGN78.96 billion (USD204.9 million) 2021 budget for the implementation of the aviation roadmap. The Ministry said this would be implemented through a public-private partnership.
The new flag carrier is expected to start with a domestic and regional airline service with a narrow-body fleet and early-on add international services to Europe and the US with B787s or A350s, according to the project information on the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC) website.