Bankole Bernard, CEO Finchglo Travels
Chief Executive Officer, Finchglo Travels Mr. Bankole Bernard has frown at the neglect of many airports in the country because they are considered not commercially viable.
He said, government had been distracted from paying attention to these airports with its ongoing plans to concession the four major International airports namely, Abuja, Lagos, Kano and Port Harcourt to the detriment of others.
This is just as he said, passenger traffic does not determine the commercial Viability of an airport.
In a chat with aviation reporters in Lagos, Mr. Bankole said, it would make a lot of sense if documents were made available to justify that the neglected airports were commercially unviable.
“My question is: Where is the document that revealed to any of us that those airports are not commercially viable? Are we looking at passengers as the only means that makes an airport commercially viable?”.
Bankole who is also the President, Association of Aviation Training Organizations of Nigeria, emphasized that, if government was tired of managing the airports because of not generating enough revenue, it should be handled over to individuals who have the wherewithall to turn around the fortunes of the airports thus make it commercially viable.
“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 it that government is not in a 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 stated that, in many parts of the world, airports terminals have been turned into shopping malls not just to attract passengers alone but other people who come to the airport.
“As a matter of fact, let me tell you that airport terminals are no longer what they used to be. As a matter of fact, in some countries, they have turned their airports into a shopping mall – local and international where you can do and undo with a lot of things”.
“And that alone attracts passengers to ply such airport. 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”.
Bankole noted that, statistics have revealed that the recovery of travel in Nigeria is the highest in the world, with the figure higher than the world and continent figures and wondered how this magic had happened in the same place where there is no money nor a national carrier.
He attributed the increase in the figures to a developing culture of flying by the people.
“This tells you that there is a culture. We have developed the flying culture and the number keeps increasing by the day. If the number is increasing by the day, it means it is a viable market”.
He added, “They shouldn’t tell us our airports are not commercially viable. People like us that come in have even 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”.