Mr. Bankole Bernard, the CEO of Finchglow

Statistics show that globally, aviation in Nigeria post-COVID, is the fastest growing out of recession, as indicated by the consistent increase in the number of passengers – which puts Nigeria’s record higher than any other country in the world, since the resumption of air travel. 

The Chief Executive Officer, Finchglow Travels, Mr. Bankole Bernard, made this disclosure on Friday, during a chat with the seminar committee members of the League of Aviation and Airport Correspondents of Nigeria (LAAC-N),  in respect of the fast-approaching international seminar scheduled for 28th July, at Sheraton Hotel And Towers, Lagos.

He wondered why the record is being made by the same country where it is perceived that they have no money nor a national carrier. According to him, Nigeria’s recovery rate tells that Nigerians have developed the culture of flying and the number keeps increasing by the day, which means it is a viable market.

Bankole, the immediate past President, the National Association of Nigerian Travel Agents, NANTA, said that such growth should not just be left unattended, but should spur aviation managers to come up with innovations that will make the growth sustainable and be cleverly turned into prosperity for the industry. 

Condemning the idea of tagging some airports as non viable, and emphasising that the government should keep within its limits of being a regulator, while allowing businessmen with verifiable track records to manage the terminals , Bankole noted:  “If you say it is not commercially viable, why don’t you allow those that have interest in those airports to turn them around? I have always said that the government is not in the business of doing business. They are regulators. They should stick to their strength, which is regulating, while we allow the business people to handle the business aspect of this”. 

He further noted that airport terminals are no longer what they used to be globally, as in some countries, their airports (both local and international) have been turned into shopping malls, where you can do a lot of things – in line with this, passengers are attracted to ply such airports. He stated: “So, if we have such a viable business outlook, why should we continue to say an airport is not commercially viable? There are quite a lot of things that we need to do and when we put those things in the right perspective, an airport becomes commercially viable. 

Akure airport for instance, had only one airline going there before, but now about three airlines go there. Are you still saying the traffic is still the way it was? Let me remind you at this point that Nigerians are constantly developing the culture of flying”. 

Bankole urged a stop to the slogan that the nation’s airports are not viable. He enthused, “they shouldn’t tell us our airports are not commercially viable. People like us that come in have even not been given the opportunity to prove that these airports are viable. How do you make an airport viable when you only put on the generator when you have an aircraft approaching and the moment the aircraft lands, you put off the generator again? This will not be viable because you have lost communication, so even when people show up and they can’t get electricity, they will probably stop. 

There are quite a lot of things we need to do to make our airports commercially viable, as long as there is a genuine interest and we give it to those that are passionate about the industry and not give it to our friends to manage”. 

He added that the lack of  expertise often leads to the rush to concession our airports when with savvy management, they could be turned around into a profitable venture. Thus, he called on professionals to begin to give a thought to how other airports not among those being concessioned, could be profitably managed taking cognizance of the consistently consistent growth in the number of air travellers. Similarly, he urged the government to encourage those in the business to have the opportunity to prove their mettle in turning around the seemingly unviable airports before looking outside.

Mr. Bankole is a veteran in the management of the downstream sector of air travel, whose travel agency outfit, Finchglow Travels,  won the British Airways’ Best Seller for 2021 award.