Despite an ongoing court battle with domestic airline operators over ownership structure, Hadi Sirika, the Minister of Aviation, has stated that Nigeria Air, the national carrier, will begin operations before May 29, 2023.
Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) previously filed a lawsuit against the Federal Government and the Minister of Aviation to end their partnership with Ethiopian Airlines in the establishment of Nigeria Air.
AON is opposed to Ethiopian Airlines owning a stake in Nigeria Air because domestic operators believe the partnership will give the foreign airline an unfair advantage in the domestic market over Nigerian-owned airlines.
It should be noted that Nigeria Air was supposed to begin operations in December 2022, but the domestic operators’ lawsuit caused a delay.
Sirika stated on Thursday, March 24, 2023, that the national carrier is 98 percent complete and that Nigeria Air will take off in the next two months.
“All of the roadmap items except, perhaps the airline which in my opinion is at 98 per cent completion, and we will fly within these remaining two months by the grace of God.
“We will also finish the concessions. So, all those things we said we would do when we came in, we did them,” the minister said, adding, “Before the end of this administration, before May 29th, we will fly.”
Speaking about the partnership with Ethiopian Airlines, Sirika said the Ethiopian national carrier wasn’t his choice, as he had hoped for Lufthansa.
He also said that the domestic airline in court sees Ethiopian Airlines as a competition, hence, their decision to go against the partnership.
“When we were setting up Nigeria Air limited, my gut feeling is to partner with airlines that I think will add value, with financial experience and high profile such as Emirate, Qatar, Lufthansa, and the rest of them.
“Those who worked closely with me know that this is my forecast and what I wanted because I believe if you partner with Lufthansa for example, automatically you will have license to fly.
“I thought we would do that, and I made attempts to reach them and invite them, as I did with all airline owners in Nigeria, except Overland.
“I reached out to them personally to come and partner to create a strong airline but fast forward, we had a bidder, Ethiopian airline.
“I was very happy that we got them (Ethiopian) to come. It was not my choice but I am happy now knowing what I know.
“They are a household name, strong, and they have been in business for 70 years unbroken and they have over 200 aircraft.
“So, I am very glad we are partnering with them and it is a reality.
“Some airlines are in court and their grouse is that it can be any airline in the world but not Ethiopian because, in their own way, they think Ethiopian is a competitor,” Sirika said.