Med-View Airlines, is to commence direct flight operations from Lagos to London, United Kingdom; Jeddah, Saudi Arabia and Dubai in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), according to its Managing Director/CEO, Alhaji Munuer Bankole.
Bankole who spoke to journalists while taking delivery of a new Boeing 767-300ER bought by the airline, lamented the continuous domination of international routes by foreign airlines, noting that it posed so much harm to the economy, especially given the attendant capital flight and loss of job opportunities to Nigerians.
He said the acquisition of the aircraft marked a turning point in the route expansion programme of the airline as it was now placed in a better position to begin flying into those international routes for which it had earlier obtained licences two years ago.
According to him, another Boeing 777 aircraft bought by the airline for its international route expansion project is equally being expected to arrive Nigeria before the end of the year.
Bankole said the recent fluctuation in the exchange rate of the naira against the dollar had hurt much of the airlines’ business plans but he commended First Bank, an indigenous bank that stood with the airline and provided the finance that made the acquisition of the large aircraft possible.
“This particular aircraft, a Boeing 767, is owned by Med-View and it has a total capacity of 221 for passengers. When we started negotiation with the bank, it was N158 to an American dollar but as we brought it in, it was N244. The exchange rate has been a big headache but we have to thank First Bank that made it possible for us to get this,” Bankole said.
“With this aircraft, we are ready for the Dubai and Jeddah routes. All the crew that will fly this aircraft are Nigerians. And after that, we are putting London and Lisbon on the forefront as our people are already working on those two routes. Nigerians are being exploited by foreign airlines who continue to charge exorbitant air fare,” he added.
Bankole blamed the previous Nigerian regimes whom he said “opened the door too wide for foreign airlines to operate” with policies waivers that tended to encourage foreign airlines to the detriment of local operators.
He said what two airlines (British Airways and Virgin) were charging on the Lagos-London route was the highest anyone could ever think of.
He, however, expressed optimism that the regime of President Muhammadu Buhari would undertake a review of some of the skewed policies and work out ways to encourage local airlines.