Chairman United Nigeria Airlines, Obiora Okonkwo has called on the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to create a special window for domestic carriers to access foreign exchange in procuring spares for their aircraft requiring immediate replacement.
Okonkwo said the existing bi-weekly window for bidding by banks on behalf of airlines is not yielding the right results as airlines now have to seek an alternative window to secure foreign exchange to meet their operational needs.
Speaking at a briefing in Lagos on operational plans of the airline, Okonkwo said the carrier is open to various options of collaboration including pooling of aircraft, spares, tools and expertise to deliver stronger airlines that will contribute significantly to the growth of the air transport industry.
Besides, delivering strong carriers, the United Nigeria Airlines boss said cooperation among airlines will drive down costs, creating economies of scale even as he unveiled plans by the airline to set up an aircraft Maintenance Repair and Overhaul Centre (MRO) in Enugu.
The MRO, he said, will serve not only United Nigeria Airlines but other operators who utilize the Enbraer regional jets.
United Nigeria Airlines, he said, is negotiating an additional two Embraer ERJ145 aircraft to help its consolidation plans on the domestic route with plans to procure a bigger aircraft as it consolidates its flight operations on designated routes.
Okonkwo said the Embraer 145 aircraft chosen by the carrier was carefully thought through because of its attendant fuel economy and efficiency, a factor he affirmed accounts for a significant reduction in operating costs.
He said: “The ERJ 145 is a good fuel-efficient aircraft and we are negotiating an additional two Embraers and we would use that to consolidate on our entire routes. As you know after we do that, we go for a bigger aircraft. As you know the Embraer is a good fuel-efficient aircraft but we need a bigger aircraft for baggage.