The presidency has announced the creation of startup carrier Nigeria Air, which plans to operate 30 aircraft within three to four years.
“We are aiming to launch Nigeria Air by the end of this year,” Nigerian aviation minister Hadi Sirika said, unveiling the new airline’s name and branding at the Farnborough Air Show July 18.
“We obtained the certificate of compliance from the Nigerian Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC) two weeks ago and can now go into the investor search.”[AdSense-A]
The government, which plans to own just 5% of Abuja-headquartered Nigeria Air, is seeking investors to create a public-private partnership. Once the airline is flying, some shares will also be floated on the stock market, giving Nigerians the opportunity to own a stake in the carrier. The management team will be selected by the airline’s future investors.
“The new airline will have national carrier status and be jointly owned with the private sector, but managed fully by the private sector and run on a purely commercial business,” the government said.
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“The federal government of Nigeria (FGN) will assist in startup and capitalization, and facilitate the process for opening up the capital of the airline to private sector financial investors. The FGN will not be involved in management decisions and control of the airline.”
The airline plans to immediately seek IATA membership and IOSA safety certification. “We are not afraid of going through these processes,” Sirika said. “We know the game and we are on top of it.”
Consultancy firm Airline Management Group (AMG) was appointed in February as the government’s lead transaction adviser for Nigeria Air. AMG national carrier transaction adviser Tilmann Gabriel told ATW the whole airline is being built according to IOSA standards.
He said Nigeria Air will launch in December 2018 with a fleet of 15 leased aircraft, which are urgently being sought as an interim solution.
The airline plans transition to its own direct-ordered aircraft as soon as possible, with the goal of operating a 30-strong fleet within three to four years, split evenly between single aisles and widebodies. Talks are underway with both Airbus and Boeing. “We are negotiating and you will hear from us very soon,” Sirika said.
After evaluating 1,500 routes, 80 have been selected by the startup. These comprise around 40 domestic, 20 regional and 20 international services, which are slated for launch in 2019.
Nigeria Air will launch with domestic flights, before branching out into African regional services and intercontinental flights, including London which Gabriel said will “start very quickly.” International flights will begin by mid-2019.
Gabriel said Nigeria Air has stirred up a lot of interest from airlines, banking institutions and potential investors. He added there is no cap on foreign investment in Nigerian carriers. Now that the airline has been formally unveiled, the government will formally open a request for proposals, initially seeking around $300 million in startup funding.
As part of the strategic plan, the government has also committed to increase airport capacity at the country’s key airports, including Abuja and Lagos, as well as supporting development of Nigeria’s maintenance, repair and overhaul capabilities.
Nigeria Air’s name and branding was decided via a social media campaign, with input from more than 400,000 young Nigerians. The final selection shows the airline’s name, surrounded by a green ribbon, subtly shaped as a stylized eagle.