The proposed new flag carrier of Nigeria, Nigeria Air, could take off in October 2023 with a fleet of eight aircraft, according to reports from Bloomberg.
Ethiopian Airlines CEO, Mesfin Tasew, revealed on August 3, 2023, that the airline would initiate operations with two wide-bodied planes and six narrow-bodied aircraft. Tasew expressed eagerness to witness the airline bridging the local and international markets.
Ethiopian Airlines holds the majority stake of 49% in the new airline and also has a management contract to oversee its operations. Nigerian entrepreneurs and companies, including MRS, SAHCO, and the Nigerian Sovereign Fund, possess a 46% stake, while the Nigerian Federal government owns the remaining 5% stake in Nigerian Air.
Despite the hopeful prospects, the airline’s launch has faced resistance from local carriers. Member airlines of the Airline Operators of Nigeria, namely Azman Air, Air Peace, Max Air, Topbrass Aviation, and United Nigeria Airlines, filed a lawsuit in November 2022 opposing the partnership between Ethiopian Airlines and the Nigerian government. They argue that it would threaten Nigeria’s domestic airlines by opening the market to Ethiopian Airlines.
Tasew remained optimistic about the outcome of the lawsuit, expressing hope that it would favor the establishment of the new flag carrier. In April 2023, he stated, “We expect the court case will be closed in the coming few weeks in favor of establishing their line. We want to go there to enable Nigeria to have a strong national carrier that can provide a dependable service within the country and also an alternate service for Nigerians traveling to major destinations.”
In May 2023, media reports indicated the start-up’s reception of its first aircraft at Abuja Airport. A video on social media displayed an aircraft adorned with Nigeria Air colors. However, the aircraft, presumably a Boeing 737-800 previously owned by Ethiopian Airlines, is yet to be officially registered to the new carrier in official databases.
Nigeria Air was initially announced in July 2018 at the Farnborough International Airshow in the United Kingdom. Initially, the airline planned to operate a fleet of five aircraft, including Airbus A330s and Boeing 737s, and had identified 81 routes, with an aim to expand up to 30 aircraft within five years of commencing operations.
Nevertheless, opposition towards the airline’s establishment has caused multiple delays in its launch.