It’s not easy com­pet­ing in air­line busi­ness – Med-View MD

Daily Trust - - BUSINESS - From Ab­dul­la­teef Aliyu, La­gos

The Man­ag­ing Direc­tor and Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer of Med-View Air­line, Al­haji Muneer Bankole, speaks on the on­go­ing air­lift of pil­grims to Saudi Ara­bia; plans to re­brand the air­line’s Lon­don op­er­a­tions. Ex­cerpt:

The air­lift of Nige­rian pil­grims to Saudi Ara­bia has com­menced, with your air­line start­ing from Kaduna. What is the pre­pared­ness of Med-View for a seam­less op­er­a­tion?

We give thanks to Almighty Al­lah. The 2017 air­lift has started and we wish all our in­tend­ing pil­grims a safe Hajj mabrur and all the car­ri­ers that are par­tic­i­pat­ing in this ex­er­cise a suc­cess­ful air­lift op­er­a­tion. For Med-View, we have three aero­planes for this ex­er­cise. The first is a 747-400 which has ca­pac­ity for 463 pas­sen­gers; the sec­ond a 777-200 which Med-View is in­tro­duc­ing this year for this ex­er­cise. And the third is a B767-300 with ex­tended range. This shows the se­ri­ous­ness and com­mit­ment of the air­line; we are fully ready.

You have been in­volved in Hajj op­er­a­tions for many years, what will you say about the num­ber of pil­grims?

Be­cause of the con­struc­tion work at the two holy mosques in Saudi Ara­bia, the num­ber was cut down. But to­day that num­ber has re­turned and Nige­ria has about 95,000 quota. But the eco­nomic sit­u­a­tion and the dol­lar ex­change rate is af­fect­ing the pil­grims and there have been ap­peals to govern­ment to as­sist the peo­ple to ful­fill their re­li­gious obli­ga­tions - both Mus­lims and Chris­tians - be­cause this is the only win­dow that peo­ple have for such spir­i­tual ex­er­cise that brings bless­ing to the coun­try.

Are you wor­ried that an­other for­eign air­line is in­volved in the Hajj air­lift and do you think indige­nous car­ri­ers have the ca­pac­ity to air­lift all the pil­grims?

To­day we have a strong part­ner. Max Air has about three air­planes which carry al­most 500 pas­sen­gers each. Med-View has three which carry about 1,000 per day. If you put all these to­gether and mul­ti­ply by the num­ber of days we have, it is too few for the Nige­rian car­ri­ers to carry. I re­peat it is too few for us to carry. But we are al­ways open to com­pe­ti­tion which makes us to be­lieve in our part­ners’ ca­pac­ity; our friends from the King­dom of Saudi Ara­bia.

What is up on your Lon­don route now?

Med-View com­menced op­er­a­tions into UK on Novem­ber 20, 2015. We have air­lifted close to 80,000 pas­sen­gers. Our com­mit­ment to­day is to re­brand the Lon­don op­er­a­tions; that is why we de­cided to bring in the 777-200 air­craft. It is a brand new air­craft. We have re­con­fig­ured the Busi­ness Class with Air France seats, and we en­sure that what the cus­tomers are ask­ing for in terms of in­flight en­ter­tain­ment, is to­tally in­built.

You are ready for a long haul to the UK with­out any au­thor­ity in­fring­ing on your op­er­a­tions?

When you have is­sue of safety, you don’t dis­cuss it on the pages of news­pa­pers; it has to do with peo­ples’ lives and safety. Med-View has been known for safety com­pli­ance; Med-View has been known for rugged­ness, to­day we are 11 years on the hajj air­lift.

To­day we are the only air­line run­ning Lon­don route; we are still sustaining it, it is not easy to be with the big boys and I am proud to tell you, I was in­vited to Brus­sels (for IATA meet­ing). I sat down to ad­dress the en­tire 28 EU na­tions and I want to thank them for lis­ten­ing.

But is the Euro­pean Avi­a­tion Safety Agency (EASA) cer­ti­fi­ca­tion now in place?

There is no EASA cer­ti­fi­ca­tion, what you have to un­der­stand and what peo­ple need to know is that the UK au­thor­ity, in­clud­ing EU com­mu­ni­ties said for an air­line to come from a third coun­try; you must have a TCO, Third Coun­try Op­er­a­tor Per­mit. That TCO will en­able you to fly within their airspace. It is just that when we fly in their airspace, we pay into Euro con­trol. Euro con­trol is just like the over-flight charges we pay to NAMA. So they take over-flight when we fly Al­ge­ria into France be­fore you get to UK. So some­body is tak­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity.

So the EASA cer­tifi­cate is one thing that bor­ders on Euro­pean com­mu­ni­ties; the IOSA cer­tifi­cate is the one that comes from IATA which is the most su­pe­rior to all air­lines. As an air­line we are cer­ti­fied with the E-IOSA.

How are you look­ing at the op­er­a­tional en­vi­ron­ment in Nige­ria now? How are things work­ing?

In fair­ness, it is very wor­ri­some. If we ask our­selves, how many air­lines we met on the way and where are they? It is not a

On in­ter­na­tional fares, it ap­pears Euro­pean car­ri­ers are driv­ing away the lo­cal car­ri­ers?

Let me tell you the game. Euro­pean car­ri­ers and the Nige­rian car­ri­ers are the same. We are gov­erned by one body. Each coun­try has one reg­u­la­tory au­thor­ity, you can call it dif­fer­ent names. In Nige­ria as you know, it is NCAA. In Dubai, you have DCAA. They are all un­der ICAO, and IATA runs the com­mer­cial side of it.

The ba­sis of ev­ery­thing is for govern­ment to cre­ate the en­abling en­vi­ron­ment to let each air­line sur­vive. In other parts of the world, you see govern­ment sub­si­dis­ing so many things. Here, you know the prob­lems we have with charges. We have talked about cre­at­ing an en­vi­ron­ment for you to thrive. It is very chal­leng­ing here and that’s why you are see­ing de­cline in our num­ber. Mem­ber­ship of AON (Air­line Op­er­a­tors of Nige­ria) was 26. To­day you can see only six or seven.

Are you look­ing at do­ing in­ter­na­tional flights from Kaduna?

I was with His Ex­cel­lency, the Kaduna State Gov­er­nor and his team. We were in Bei­jing and Mum­bai and I com­mend the gov­er­nor for his no­ble idea to de­velop this state with high com­mit­ment to avi­a­tion. There is an in­ter­ested party from China that is pre­pared to build a strong MRO (Main­te­nance Re­pair and Over­haul) fa­cil­ity. In the whole of Africa, we have only three MRO fa­cil­i­ties. So we can save be­tween 600,000 to one mil­lion dol­lars that we spend on main­te­nance abroad if we have our own MRO.

The gov­er­nor has shown in­ter­est in this and that is why Med-View is fully on ground here. We run daily flights from Kaduna and we have done Um­rah flights from Kaduna and we are here again do­ing Hajj and In­sha Al­lah very soon, Ethiopia is also part­ner­ing with Med-View.

Al­haji Muneer Bankole

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