Ethiopian airline has disclosed its interest to establish a national carrier for Nigeria.
The airline said it is in talks with the federal government, private sectors and airline operators in Nigeria.
The airline also noted the failure of Nigeria to own a carrier was a big threat to the airline industry in Africa which is capable of displacing indigenous carriers in the continent.
Ethiopian Airlines Group Chief Executive officer, Tewolde Gebremariam, disclosed these during a chat with some reporters.
He also revealed that the airline loses about $3million annually to its operation of Kano and Enugu route because of low traffic.
On why he was in Nigeria, Gebremariam said: “We have been discussing and exploring possibilities to establish or support a strong airline in Nigeria.
“I don’t mean that there is no strong airline in Nigeria, but we want an airline that can satisfy the demand of the domestic market, the regional market and international market.
“We are also in talks with Ghana government to establish Ghana Airways but the biggest market which is Nigeria has been a challenge to be honest with you.
“We are discussing at all levels. We are also discussing with private carriers, local carriers in Nigeria and the government but we are making it abundantly clear that we want to start a new one because starting from a clean slate or paper is advantageous because we won’t have any legacy or baggage to carry.
“There is a strong indication and interest from both sides and I am very hopeful that very soon, we will have a strong base to start with and from our track record; we have established Asky, Malawi, Mozambique and now Chad.
“We make sure that when we start something, we start professionally and make sure that it succeeds.”
On the impact of Nigeria not owning a carrier, he said: “Nigeria is a very large country but unfortunately, since the demise of Nigeria Airways, we are unfortunate that we don’t have a strong carrier.
“So, this concern is part of continental concern because in Africa, non-African carriers have the biggest shares.
“It is around 80-20 ratio. 80 percent of the traffic between Africa and the rest of the world is carried by non-African carriers.
“The home grown carriers have only 20 percent of the market. This is not fair and it used to be 60 percent some years ago but now, it is coming down. We are also threatened because all of us in Africa are only 20 percent of the market.
“So, in a declining trend, there is a possibility that the market share can be zero. So, they will wipe us out. We have to make sure that we work together with all African countries to ensure that there are strong home grown indigenous carriers.
“We have done this with Asky in Togo and we want to do it in Nigeria.”
He said their objective is to establish Nigerian carrier that would compete with European carriers.
On its loss, he said: “It is not the most profitable but an important market. You know we fly to Lagos and Abuja daily, we have very good traffic but at the same time we also fly to Kano and Enugu where we don’t make money.
“We lose money and those two stations lose around $3million per annum but overall, it is an important market for us.
“As you know in Enugu, we are the only international airline, so it is a very challenging route for us. We fly three or four times a week and we are very happy that the route has been a very good connection for Nigerians in diaspora especially in Europe and Africa.
“It is a direct route for most of the Nigerian people in the US. We are also happy that it has been a very good bridge in trade link between Nigeria and Dubai, Bangkok, Asia, China and other Asian countries but it is a challenging route.
“The other challenging route for us is Kano. As you know, it is highly seasonal and the weather condition is very challenging for airlines like ours but despite the challenges, we have maintained our flights even at the cost of incurring losses.”
Commenting on Boeing Max 737, he said its airline has told Boeing that it would be the last to be recertified to ensure that the safety conditions are met.
He said: “As you know, the Max has been a problematic airplane after having two fatal and tragic accidents.
“So, right now, recertification is going on. So, we don’t know when the recertification will be completed because there are two parts to it.”