Nigeria Air Borrows Plane from Ethiopian Airlines for Debut Ceremony
The Federal Government has unveiled a Boeing 737-800 series aircraft with the Nigeria Air logo at the Abuja airport on Friday, as part of its efforts to launch the new national carrier.
However, Daily Trust can confirm that the aircraft belongs to Ethiopian Airlines, one of the major shareholders in the Nigeria Air project.
The aircraft, with registration ET-APL, took off from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, at 9:55am on Friday and landed at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, at 12:43 p.m.
According to Flightradar, a popular flight tracking website, the aircraft had been operating flights for Ethiopian Airlines until Sunday, when it flew from Addis Ababa to Tel Aviv in Israel.
The aircraft also serviced Mogadishu in Somalia and Beirut in Lebanon on May 20 and 21 respectively.
The Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, expressed delight that the Nigeria Air project had taken off after “a very long, tedious, daunting and difficult path”.
He later unveiled the aircraft at the General Aviation Terminal of the Abuja airport.
He said that the Federal Executive Council had approved the leasing of three aircraft for the carrier, which would start with domestic flights and then grow to become regional and international.
He also said that the ownership structure of Nigeria Air would comprise 49% by equity partners, 46% by Nigerians and 5% by the Federal Government.
He urged Nigerians to support and promote democracy by adhering to the rule of law and advancing the frontiers of freedom for all the people.
Ethiopian Airlines is a majority shareholder in Nigeria Air project. It has a 49% stake, a structure which made domestic airlines under the Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) file a suit against the Federal Government.
The airlines argued that the partnership would put them out of business by opening their market to Ethiopian Airlines.
They also demanded an order of up to N2 billion in damages for “wrongful exclusion and unlawful bidding and selection processes” for the Nigeria Air project.
The ‘Presidential Aviation Roadmap’ launched in 2016 aims to develop airports, set up a new Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) facility, a nationwide leasing company and other initiatives.
President Muhammadu Buhari had vowed to establish a national carrier before the end of his administration on May 29th, 2023.
The government has not owned a national airline since 2003 when Nigeria Airways ceased trading.
Air Nigeria, a successor of sorts, was established in 2004 as a joint venture between Virgin Group and Nigerian investors but it also collapsed in 2012.