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Arik Air is a Nigerian airline with its main base at Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos, and a secondary hub at Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja. In 2006 Arik Air took over the assets of the bankrupt national airline Nigeria Airways, and today the airline offers domestic, regional and intercontinental services to destinations in North America and Europe. Arik Air is the largest operator in Nigeria.
Location of Arik Air main hub (Lagos Murtala Muhammed Airport)
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Africa’s unenviable record of government interference in the continent’s aviation system is demonstrated by no less than nine carriers currently surviving at the behest of their respective governments through a variety of financial support mechanisms collectively worth about USD2.5 billion.
In most cases this support serves only to distort any prospect of a level playing field, preventing privately owned carriers from competing effectively. Nigeria is even taking this a stage further as state support of private carriers is being undermined by a desire to relaunch a government owned national flag carrier. In other cases, such as Uganda, new state-owned airlines are planned to compete with successful privately owned operators in markets that often lack sufficient demand to support them both. Whatever the motives, and many of them are questionable at best, the outcome is sadly predictable.
In most cases Africa’s national carriers suffer at the hands of government mismanagement and interference, key among them is the continent’s largest airline, South African Airways (SAA) which is the subject of the biggest turnaround plan currently under way. This could offer a vital precedent if it succeeds - and if it doesn't.
Nigeria’s aviation transformation programme is making good progress with the government’s extensive airport renovation project of 22 federal airports reaching the half-way stage and the remaining 11 airports to be remodelled by 2015.
Foreign carriers, attracted by Nigeria’s 170 million population and economic potential are also bringing in more capacity, in particular Ethiopian and Emirates, while Arik and Gol are preparing to reopen a direct link between Nigeria and Brazil for the first time in about 20 years.
But domestic carriers continue to struggle under the burden of massive debt, high operating costs and the prospect of increased competition from a proposed new national carrier and potential start-ups.
Germania is “very satisfied” with the performance of its Western African subsidiary Gambia Bird which launched a regional and international aviation network nearly a year ago with the aim of making Banjul an air transport hub for the sub-region.
Germania MD Andreas Wobig reportedly stated in Sep-2013 that Gambia Bird has allowed the group to better manage its capacity, noting that while charter operations in Europe are characterised by overcapacity and price pressure, the African continent is a key growth market
Gambia Bird plans to increase its winter timetable after making seasonal adjustments during the summer low season, which included moving one of Gambia Bird's two A319s to Germania’s Manchester base allowing the group to make maximise fleet utilisation.
Arik Air, Western Africa’s largest carrier, looks set to start delivering on some of its often repeated long-haul growth plans with the arrival the first of four A330-200s, with the second due by the end of Jul-2013.
The new aircraft are aimed at increasing frequencies on some existing services, including Lagos to New York, while also opening new routes with Sao Paulo high on the list. Arik states that other opportunities include China, United Arab Emirates and more points in Europe and the United States.
In addition Arik has placed firm orders for Bombardier CRJ1000 NextGen regional jets and Q400 NextGen turboprops as the carrier looks to expand its regional network beyond Western Africa.
But the carrier, which is heavily indebted to the government, also faces the prospect of another new national carrier being launched by the end of 2014 to provide domestic, regional and intercontinental competition.
ASKY Airlines has transported more than one million passengers in little over three years since launching operations in West Africa in Jan-2010. In that time the full service carrier, 40% owned by Ethiopian Airlines, has established an enviable market position, operating to 22 destinations with Bissau to be added from Jul-2013.
With the carrier now making a profit, management is turning its attention to expanding south in search of more lucrative routes to Angola and South Africa, while more ambitious services to Europe could reportedly be launched by 2015.
Nigeria-based Arik Air enters 2013 with some prospect for growth having reportedly secured a USD2 billion credit facility to fund the acquisition of additional aircraft. The carrier has also held preliminary talks with Ivory Coast national carrier Air Cote d’Ivoire to provide that nation’s domestic network.
But despite repeated announcement of new long-haul routes, the previously aggressive Arik founded in 2006 after taking over the assets of bankrupt national airline Nigeria Airways has achieved little growth in recent years. Arik harboured pretentions of becoming Western Africa’s leading airline and candidate for membership of one of the main marketing alliances but has been weighed down by debt, the lack of a clear business plan and a meddlesome government.
The carrier has capitalised on the demise of a major privately-owned competitor in Air Nigeria as well as grounding of Dana Airways following a crash, which effectively reduced the domestic market to a duopoly with Aero.
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