“Nigeria Air, a world-class experience in the sky...working together to make great things happen”, a bass toned voice narrated in a dark lit room.
An attempt to create suspense and anticipation, as if the organisers had taken a cue from the late Steve Jobs unveiling his newest invention. But this wasn’t that type of event. Instead, it was unveiling what should have been Nigeria Air by the Nigerian aviation minister and a few delegates. Our 11th attempt—yes 11—at setting up a flag carrier.
Nigeria’s 11th attempt to run a state-owned airline is riddled with challenges such as a concessioned airport that could prevent its eventual success.
The air transport sector in Nigeria has survived on the backdrop of privately run air transport businesses. In 2019, the sector’s growth rate was 13%.
Employment opportunities and facilitating the growth of other sectors through transport infrastructure are some economic benefits of flying a national flag carrier. However, these can be elusive if operations are as inefficient or influenced by the government as past national carriers.
A “flag carrier” is a transportation company—airline, train, shipping, etc.—subsidised or owned by the country they are registered in. The airline often gets preferential rights or privileges from the government for its operations—think British Airways (BA) and its monopoly of Heathrow Terminal 5.
There is a strong connection to the home country for many flag carriers, whether government-owned or not. The International