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Arik Partners Sierra Leone to Establish National Carrier

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Image: Arik Air B737-700:Brand New From Boeing That Will Fly The London- Fretown Route



By Chinedu Eze

Nigeria’s biggest carrier, Arik Air is providing technical support to the government of Sierra Leone to establish a national carrier, known as Leone Airways.

The new airline, which may start operation in June this year will have all the appurtenances of a national airline and will be operating international, regional and local destinations as it is already designated to be flying to London from Freetown.

Arik Air will provide the airline its initial fleet and technical skills until it is able to acquire its own fleet.
Chairman of Arik Air, Joseph Arumemi-Ikhide, who confirmed this development said that it was also partnering with the Republic of Cote d’Ivoire to also build its own national airline and develop its routes in the West and Central Africa.

“There is Leon Airways that is starting. We are technical partners to Leon Airways and we will be flying from Freetown to London. Of course they too will be flying to some of the West Africa destinations. We are having serious discussion with Air Cote d’Ivoire as partners. So while we are not making a lot of success in Nigeria because we are not getting a lot of support and recognition, others appreciate what we are doing.

“We are aware that in some of these countries Emirates has offered to come and operate there and they said no. They would prefer to have a Nigerian carrier, whereas in Nigeria we are the ones inviting these foreign airlines for peanuts and we say we want to create jobs when all the jobs that could be provided by these airlines is to have one indigenous station manager.”
These partnerships with two West African countries will strengthen the dominance of Arik Air in West and Central Africa sub regions and this will also tilt the jostling for the West African market to its favour as each of these countries would determine the airlines that operate their routes to other destinations.

Since the last three years airlines like Asky, a subsidiary of Ethiopian Airways, Kenya Airways, Rwand Air and others from outside the sub region have been making efforts to have a chunk of the market but the competition has remained stiff.

Before its demise, Air Nigeria used to dominate the West and Central Africa routes but since its extinction, Asky has been making efforts to have a foothold, but ironically the dominant passengers in the market are Nigerians who constitute over 65 per cent of the movements.
Industry experts say that West Africa market seemed to be an open market because almost all the countries in the sub-region do not have a national carrier or dominant private airlines and until the establishment of such airlines as the now defunct Air Nigeria, Arik Air and Aero Contractors, it used to take days to travel by air from one West African country to another, as passengers had to travel to Europe first to connect flights to their neighbouring countries.
This was caused by the death of such airlines as Air Afrique, Nigeria Airways Limited, Ghana Airways, Cameroon Airlines and others.

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Updated 6 Years ago

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