Yesterday has marked the 80 years of operation in Nigeria for the British Airways, The Head of Middle East, Africa and Central Asia Sales, British Airways, Paola De Renzis, who spoke in Abuja, has said, the airline had been facing difficult times doing business in Nigeria due to the current economic hardship in the country, but had to cope because of the long standing relationship between Britain and Nigeria since 1936.
The British Airways Rezis, who described the Forex scarcity challenge as a big threat to the aviation industry, however, admitted that the situation is gradually getting better than it was six months ago, it all happened due to the intervention of the Central bank of Nigeria, CBN and the Federal government. Said: ‘‘The current economic recession has been a very big threat to the British Airline but for the long standing relationship we have with Nigeria, we have strived to remain afloat.
The management of British Airways said,we are very happy that the Nigerian government, the minister of finance,'' aviation along side the governor of Central Bank of Nigeria have intervened and the situation is much better when it comes to foreign remittances. ‘‘So, if you look at the current situation compared to where we were like six months ago, we are in a much much better place.
We are talking to key stakeholders in Nigeria but though the problem is still there,‘‘I can confirm to you now that we are in talks with the minister of finance, minister of aviation and we will keep on monitoring the situation. We have been around for 80 years and we are very committed to Nigeria,’’ he said. Beyond the economic challenges, the Head of MEACAS, said the airline has plan to build on its success into the next 80 years by reviewing its operation and making necessary adjustment to meet future challenges.
Though our plan is to be around for another 80 years if not more. It is our expectation that things will keep improving, and while we keep reviewing our operations in the country. ‘‘We have a long standing relationship with Nigeria and we are very proud of the relationship with Nigeria and many other countries in Africa. British Airways started flying into Nigeria in 1936. At that time, it was Imperial Airways.
80 years ago we started with the first flight, it was carrying only air fright, there were no passengers on board we are happy that it was a success." we extended our services from Kano to Lagos then we started carrying passengers, growing with a number of flight operations, it means that it has been a successful journey.’’ Impact on Nigeria Speaking on the impact of BA on Nigeria, the Country Commercial Manager of the company in Nigeria, Kola Olayinka, said the airline had impacted Nigeria in many ways through its bilateral relationship.
‘‘As we are celebrating 80 years in Nigeria, we also have Nigerian airlines that have been going to the UK, though not quite 80 years; we have Nigerian Airways, Midview, Arik and all that. ‘‘If you move to corporate social responsibility, a lot of people move in between our two countries and there is a lot of business between the United Kingdom and Nigeria.
UK is number one or two largest trading partner now, China may have moved ahead but I am not sure. The UK is either number one or two trading partner with Nigeria. So, economically it is important that we provide that link.’’ In the aspect of Corporate Social Responsibility, CSR, he said that the company had done so much for Nigerians through different CSR projects.
The head of British Airways in West Africa said: I am Nigerian and there many others who have been working here for many years. Our operations in Africa in general successful. We are happy with Nigeria and many other country.’’ Class of aircrafts operated in Nigeria Speaking on the class of aircraft the company owns in Nigeria, Olayinka said, ‘’we fly daily 777 in Lagos daily, Boeing 777 in Abuja and in South Africa, we have a daily 8080 flying Johannesburg to London Hithro. The second one is Boeing 747, now three days a week.
I think our product is very competitive. ‘‘BA fly daily into Lagos and Abuja for so long. We were the first airline to fly internationally from Abuja. Unfortunately the time has changed significantly. our Forex situation, the rate of the $ and the fact that Naira has devalued.
If you could check what happened in Ghana and here, it is not exactly the same, they are actually much better than us, and it because of share exchange rate. ‘‘We had a meeting earlier with the minister of finance and everybody is hoping that things will get better in 2017. If you look at Ghana right now, all the economists around, I am not one to tell you that they are in a better position. ‘‘We need to take not just Nigeria into consideration but all other countries where we operate. Currency devaluation affects the way we price. We need to address that because if we have been around for 80 years and we want to be around for another 80 years, we need to adjust our pricing according to profitable demand.’’