As the new year begins, experts and stakeholders in the industry are optimistic that the year will offer a vista of opportunities for great improvement targeted at positoning the sector for greater heights. Government’s initiative to deliver a new national carrier and complete some international airport terminals in Lagos and Enugu , among others, are expected to drive the vision this year, KELVIN OSA – OKUNBOR reports.

Activities in the aviation sector in 2020 will take a new shape for the better as government consolidates on unmet targets of 2019.

Experts say government has been reworking its strategies to focus on the blueprint it sets out to achieve for the industry as the year begins.

In particular, infrastructure upgrade in the area of completion of terminals will top agenda for government. This is evidenced in the quick pace of work on ongoing construction of a new international terminal at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA) Lagos .

The new Lagos International Airport Terminal , scheduled for inauguration by the end of the first quarter of the year, will come under focus following complaints by passengers , airlines and others who travel through the existing over 40-year-old MMIA facility.

The old facility, long overdue for rebuilding, has characterised the odd face of air travel in Nigeria with its many headaches not limited to inadequate cooling system; obsolete elevators; epileptic conveyor belts ; poor electrical cabling systems, resulting in frequent power outages and other operational challenges.

Experts say a major overhaul of the Lagos International Airport will top the agenda of government in 2020 as the increasing number of foreign carriers utilising the facility is exposing lapses in the terminal, long overdue for expansion.

Besides, the construction of a new international terminal for the Lagos Airport, integrating support air side infrastructure including expanded taxi ways, aprons, avio bridges, transit lounge and other facilities will also occupy the attention of government this year as the ambition to upgrade the Lagos Airport into a regional hub is on the burner.

Experts say 2020 will be a defining year for the aviation sector as government looks forward to tapping into the potential of the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) by delivering a new national carrier already christened Nigeria Air.

The year 2020 holds a promise for the sector as government seeks to resolve the lingering imbalance in its bilateral air services agreement (BASA) it signed with over 80 countries through floating a national carrier that will deepen the market in the international scene.

Industry watchers say the proposed carrier will not only position Nigeria in the international aviation arena, but fill the gap struggling indigenous carriers designated on international routes have failed to utilise.

The year 2020 will offer surprises in the airline sub sector as new carriers pursuing their Air Operators Certificate with the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) will appear in the already challenged operational scene.

Among such new entrants will include : Green African Airways; United Nigeria Airways ; Jet Aviation and others which will take the sector by storm in their quest to change the face of air travel through use of brand new airplanes and mixed fleet.
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Experts say some existing operators may fall by the wayside, due to overwhelming operational challenges not limited to reducing fleet size, new regulatory pronouncements; failure to embrace consolidation /merger options and other factors.

A few carriers from the Northern parts of the country : Max Air and AZMAN will spring surprises as they are increasingly chalking into routes in the South with corresponding flight frequencies from Abuja Airport into Benin, Asaba and other routes.

The year 2020 holds some promise for carriers such as Arik Air and Aero Contractors, which though under receivership by the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON), are rebounding to enhanced operations with more of their aircraft pulling out of offshore maintenance facilities to regain their market share.

Aero Contractors, for instance, is already positioning its Maintenance Repair and Overhaul (MRO) facility as a reference centre in West and Central Africa.

Largest indigenous carrier by fleet size, Air Peace, will be in the spotlight in 2020 as its managers promised to consolidate its route expansion on domestic, regional and inter continental routes.

The carrier is expected to expand flight operations into South Africa, United Kingdom, United States, India, China and other destinations.

2020 will provide a test case for the carrier as it deploys its mixed fleet of aircraft to service Nigeria’s under served and un- served routes in the national air link.

Besides Air Peace, state owned carrier, Ibom Air, will be among the carriers to watch, as its meteoric rise as a three aircraft operator is already changing the travel narrative on the Lagos – Uyo – Abuja routes.

The carrier is projected to develop a three hub structure as it provides connections for passengers on its operational corridors.

Outlook

Investigations by The Nation also reveal that the year 2020 will trigger a plethora of litigation as some private jet/business jet operators at the international wing of the Lagos Airport Airport will be going to court to challenge government on the relocation of their hangar to pave the way for expansion of the new terminal facility.

Part of those to be affected by this development, an expert familiar with the matter confided in The Nation will include some helicopter operators, which may be forced to relocate near the Quints Aviation Centre .

Such relocation, the expert said, may push the operator out of business, as the space hitherto allocated will be converted to expand the apron of the new terminal.

Ongoing construction at the international wing of the Lagos Airport will eat into space already allocated to some concessionaires, who are in court with the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN).

Still on infrastructure, the year will trigger more partnerships between state; as FAAN and Lagos State government are working on modalities to extend rail services from Ikeja into the local wing of the airport.

A source familiar with the plan said the year 2020 looks good for the aviation sector as government has opened discussions with some firms to achieve a light rail facility to connect the local and international wings of the Lagos Airport.

The year 2020 will signal major strides for the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology (NCAT), in Zaria, Kaduna State as the college looks to acquiring more trainer aircraft, flight and fire simulator and other equipment that will reinforce its role as an International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Regional Centre of Excellence.

But, it is not certain if Minister of Aviation, Captain Hadi Sirika will deliver his much awaited Aircraft Leasing Company for indigenous carriers; the much talked about Aircraft Maintenance and Repair Centre as well as the Aviation University.

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