In an effort to expand their operations across the continent, Nigerian airlines have been urged by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) to take advantage of the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM).
Mrs Adefunke Adeyemi, Vice-President, IATA for Africa, gave the advice while speaking at the just concluded Akwaaba Travel and Tourism which held in Lagos recently.
She explained that SAATM was inaugurated by the Heads of States of the African Union (AU) earlier in the year in order to deepen bilateral relations among countries and foster cooperation among the airlines.
According to her, Nigerian carriers have the right to fly into about 40 African countries and can establish hubs in these countries through negotiations and mutually beneficial air service agreements.
She however noted that no Nigerian carrier was flying to Chad and Niger Republic in spite of the presence of a viable trade on the routes.
She said it was unfortunate that the 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, based in Lome, Togo.
Adeyemi also urged African airlines to form alliances among themselves as it would improve their operations as well as profits, adding that some of them already belonged to international platforms such as Star Alliance.
She added that the airlines should also strive to get the IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) certificate which would enable them to play on the global stage.
Meanwhile, she decried the high cost of airfares 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 per cent 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.
Also, speaking at the event, Senior Manager, Air Namibia Wimpie Van Vuuren, said that in spite of the initial fears, SAATM had enabled the airline to expand its operations to Ghana and Nigeria.
He urged African airlines to look beyond the initial challenges of the policy and find ways to make it beneficial to their operations.