A former managing director of Arik Air and Camair plans to launch a new Nigerian low-cost carrier, using Airbus jets, in October.
Alex van Elk says the as-yet unnamed carrier will be based at Lagos and will operate domestic services to the “golden triangle” of Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt.
“I have spoken to the Nigerian aviation minister and she is positive about what is being planned for the future. We are looking at creating more than just an airline, we are about a brand with a huge amount of marketing behind it, launching in the next couple of months,” he tells Flightglobal.
The fleet will consist of two leased Airbus A319s initially, and up to 12 after two years. Van Elk says he is in discussions with Airbus and a “number of companies” which have come forward with available aircraft.
The carrier will emphasise safety and punctuality and a “quality cabin service” and will operate just one class of seats in order to reduce delays at check in, Van Elk says.
It will operate domestically for the first nine months to a year, before branching out onto regional flights, but Van Elk is clear these will be restricted to African operations only.
“We will never fly intercontinental services to New York, London or Paris,” he says.
He has already secured accommodation for the airline at Lagos airport, he says, and will seek an air operator's certificate and governmental clearances once all funding has been accounted for.
Pilots and cabin crew will be recruited in Nigeria, where Van Elk says there is already a number of highly trained professionals available, many other roles will be outsourced to reduce costs.
Van Elk has partnered with a French investment bank to launch the enterprise and says he has already secured a significant amount of funding to launch the airline. Funding will be roughly a 50:50 mix of European and Nigerian investment, he says.
“The total cost will be $25 million which includes all the preparation work, although probably the real cost will be more like $20 million. We are not looking for a big group of investors, we will seek a major shareholder who will elect the chief financial officer,” he says.
Van Elk is already in talks with unnamed international airlines to secure codeshare and interline agreements to feed long-haul travellers onto his airline’s domestic services. He says a major hurdle for such codeshare agreements has been the lack of IATA- or US FAA-compliant airlines operating in Nigeria.
The carrier will initially operate at roughly 40% load factor and carry a “couple of hundred thousand passengers” in its first 12 months of operations.
"We plan to start with a 40% load factor, which is despite a shortage of 7 million seats in the Nigerian domestic market. We don’t want to do what other carriers do and make beautiful plans to operate 90-100% load factors and then go bankrupt, we will build up to 75% load factors,” Van Elk adds.