by Adeola Balogun
The long wait for a Nigerian national carrier might soon be over as reports have it that prominent airline Aero Contractors is set to fill the slot.
The airline is said to be making plans to change its name to Nigerian Eagle to reflect its new status as the nation’s official airline.
The newly rechristened airline will reportedly be unveiled by President Goodluck Jonathan on Sunday.
One of its aircraft, a Boeing 737-500 classic, painted with new livery and the new name, landed in Lagos at about 8:45 pm on Tuesday night and was secretly parked in a private fixed based operation (FBO) facility at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos.
Informed sources told THISDAY on Wednesday, “There will not be Aero Contractors anymore. It is now Nigerian Eagle and it will be launched on Sunday by Mr. President. You will not see Aero anymore after the launch of this airline”.
This confirms THISDAY’s earlier report that Aero which the federal government owns 60 per cent of its stakes would become a national carrier, but the name Nigerian Eagle was not the earlier name government designated for the flag carrier; rather it was announced that it would be called Nigeria One.
Industry observers say that government might have decided to establish more than one national carrier or is using the Nigerian Eagle as a decoy or it has decided to change the name, Nigeria One.
About three years ago the defunct Air Nigeria earlier changed its name to Nigerian Eagle when it was under the management of Capt Dapo Olumide before it was taken over by Jimoh Ibrahim under whom the airline went under.
But Ministry sources denied that the Nigerian Eagle would become the national carrier, saying that the Nigerian number one airline was yet to berth, adding that the Nigerian Eagle aircraft would be used as publicity plane for Super Eagles for the coming World Cup that would be hosted in Brazil next year.
“If it is going to be the national carrier we would have heard about it in the Ministry. I doubt that because we just held a crucial meeting on the planned national carrier. This one is a publicity plane for the Super Eagle that just qualified for the world cup,” the source told THISDAY.
Recently the federal government acquired 60 per cent interest in Aero through Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON), while the Ibru family has 40 per cent stakes.
As a national carrier, the Nigerian Eagle is expected to enjoy preferential rights or privileges accorded by the federal government for international operations.
It would hold some lucrative routes in monopoly, negotiate commercial agreements, pools and bilaterals with foreign airlines, articulate manpower training for the sector and serve as diplomatic tool for Nigeria.
Nigerian Eagle would easily codeshare with other international airlines as this would improve Nigeria’s ability to take advantage of Bilateral Air Service Agreement (BASA) it signs with other countries.
A national carrier would up the competition in scheduled air services, as the new airline would be the toast of many passengers because of its symbolic value as the national airline of Nigeria.
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