Nigeria Air is expected to launch operations by December 2022, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has revealed. The announcement comes almost five years after plans for the airline were first unveiled.
President Buhari confirmed that the establishment of Nigeria Air, the country’s proposed national airline, was 91% complete, according to Nigerian newspaper, The Cable.
This is an update to a previous estimation that the airline would launch by mid-2023, before the end of President Buhari’s tenure on May 29, 2023.
Buhari’s confirmation follows an earlier announcement in September 2022 where Nigeria’s Federal Government selected Ethiopian Airlines (ET) Consortium as one of the primary investors to partner with the government to launch its new flag carrier, the Premium Times reported.
Ethiopian Airlines will control 49% of the shares in the new airline, while three Nigerian investors – MRS, SAHCO and the Nigerian Sovereign Fund – will control 46%, with the remaining 5% to be held by Nigeria’s Federal Government, Nigeria’s Aviation Minster Hadi Sirika revealed during a press briefing held in September.
Sirika also confirmed that Nigeria Air will launch its operations with regular flights between Abuja and Lagos, after which further domestic destinations will be announced.
With the backing of Ethiopian Airlines, Nigeria Air is expected to operate a fleet of 30 aircraft by 2024.
China’s home-grown COMAC C919 narrow-body passenger plane is among the aircraft types being considered by Nigeria Air.
Four years in the making: will Nigeria Air finally take to the skies?
Nigeria Air was first announced in July 2018 at the Farnborough International Airshow in the United Kingdom.
Initially the airline was expected to operate a fleet of five aircraft comprising Airbus A330s and Boeing 737s and had identified 81 routes with an aim to operate up to 30 aircraft within five years of operations.
However, progress towards the airline’s launch was halted in September 2018 by the Federal Executive Council FEC, a government body in Nigeria. The FEC reactivated efforts towards launching the airline in November 2021 after a two-year hiatus.
The airline was then expected to commence operation in April 2022, but the date was pushed back to mid-2023 after Buhari stated that the carrier would be operational before the end of his tenure on May 29, 2023.
In June 2022, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) granted Nigeria Air its Air Transport License (ATL), valid for a period of five years.
Nigeria Air’s ATL, enables the airline to operate scheduled and non-scheduled passenger and cargo air services within and outside Nigeria.