The Nigeria Air project has been enmeshed in a series of controversies ranging from ownership structure to launching of aircraft.
Barring any unforeseen circumstances, the new national carrier, Nigeria Air, will commence commercial operations by October this year.
This is according to Mesfin Tasew, the CEO of Ethiopian Airlines, who provided updates on the project during an interview with Bloomberg TV, on Friday, August 4, 2023.
It’d be recalled that Ethiopian Airlines controls a 49% stake in the national carrier, and Tasew said his company can’t wait to see Nigeria Air flying local and international routes.
In 2022, local players in the aviation industry accused the federal government of partiality in the process that saw Ethiopian Airlines emerge as the winner of a bid to handle the operations side of the proposed national carrier.
Another controversy ensued in late May when the former Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, was accused of misleading Nigerians over the display of an airplane branded in Nigeria Air colors, three days before the end of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration.
However, all indications suggest that the project has now reached the completion stage and is ready to fly.
According to Tasew, Nigeria Air will begin operations with two wide-bodied planes and six narrow-bodied aircraft.
He said, “We are eager to see the airline start flying and connecting the local market to the international market”
He also disclosed the intention of Ethiopian Airlines to use its proven model to enable Nigeria to have a flag carrier.
“The prime objective is to enable Nigeria to have an air carrier. Ethiopian Airlines will have a management contract. Effectively, Ethiopian Airlines will manage the airline to be successful,” Tasew added.
The Ethiopian Airlines boss also highlighted the prevailing difficulties in the Nigerian business environment but remains optimistic about the size of the Nigerian economy and its inherent potential.