Arms-chair acquisition of technology leads to permanent vulnerability to the manipulative tendencies of those we try to copy and imitate. This approach is not a viable option for us. It creates a technology void and makes it absolutely difficult to eradicate the scourge of backwardness and operations system flaws which are omni-present in Nigeria.
I have read about many thriving airlines in and outside our sphere that suddenly went belly-up. From the pinnacle of their successes they plunged into the depth of despair and despondency and became extinct in a dramatic fashion. So this is not just a Nigerian thing but a global phenomenon. Nonetheless the Nigerian experience is absolutely terrifying and worth investigating.
AIRLINE COLLAPSE AND EXTINCTION
Take the case of ANSETT. “Founded in 1935; Ansett was Australia’s second largest airlines and ran for more than 65 years. It carried more than 14 million passengers a year and annual turn-over of more than $13 billion by the time it was placed under a new administration in 2001. Unfortunately, Ansett became the nation’s most high-profile aviation failure and one of the largest corporate collapses ever.”
Take the case of Malaysian Airline Flight MH 370. The Malaysian Airline Flight 370 was a scheduled international passenger flight operated by Malaysian Airline that disappeared on March 8, 2014. “It’s been suggested that the Malaysian Airline MH370 suffered a sudden and catastrophic loss of power that left it flying on auto-pilot until it ran out of fuel and crashed into the ocean,” a report has suggested. In the same 2014 Malaysian Airline lost another aircraft Malaysian Airline Flight 17 over the disputed Eastern Ukraine territory. I am pretty sure the two accidents involving Flight 370 and Flight 17 with no survivors have send Malaysian Airline into the path of collapse.
Take the case of QANTAS (parent company, New Zealand Airline); the self acclaimed world safest airline. “They are the hugely powerful and glamorous airlines that soared into the heart of the public only to be plunged into despair and grounded forever,” said Kate Schneider.
“PanAm and TWA at one time were well known and successful airlines. PanAm Flight 1 circled the globe. TWA seemed to have been everywhere. Neither is still in operation. What happened? Many factors led to their demise but among them was the erosion of their brand. People knew their names – their brand awareness was high – but as their corporate lives ended, potential customers did not seem to associate much that was positive with them. As the airline descended into failure they had less cash available and on and on ended up in a vicious spiral,” said Don Sexton.
In Nigeria alone more than one hundred-plus airlines have collapsed and sank permanently into the abyss in the past four decades. Expectedly they are those in the conundrum due to inability to break even. A list of dramatic business failures would be incomplete without a mention of the infamous Nigeria Airways Limited (NAL).
Every now and then, so it seems to me, a new airline or rebranded extinct airline makes a debut in the unchartered terrain of Nigerian airline business and opens its doors to air travelers. This is usually welcomed with excitement and great fanfare by the traveling public because it portends tangible potential for everything good. At face value, it seemed like a significant growth by all standards in comparison with other countries in the region.
Of course it ought to foster marginal economic growth under normal circumstances, especially when such airline has soared deep into the hearts of the traveling public and won their patronage in the first few years of operation, until you come to the realization that roughly two or three ailing airlines, within the same period, had received the death knell and packed-up.
I must confess that most airlines that had existed in Nigeria actually brought glamour to air travel. At birth they roared into the sky and soared into the heart of the public, only to plunge into despair, grounded for ever and shutdown their doors permanently less than five years of operation. Obviously they seemed to have come under vicious attack by the same virus that had plagued older generation airlines and plunged them into the abyss permanently. High profile corporate collapse of this magnitude produces enormous pain and hardship to hundreds of thousands of families.
Starting an airline business may be easy if one has all it takes to do so but making it successful is the hard part because the intricacies are terribly complicated and the industry is heavily regulated. Most businesses collapse and shut down due to predictable reasons. Owners retire or declare bankruptcy and hop onto something else unmindful of the pain inflicted on those whose lives have been permanently destroyed by the demise. Companies fade away or sold to competitors and former CEOs move on with life unaffected by the demise of the once glamorous airline.
While ruminating on this development, it struck me that running any business follows the natural cycle of birth and death. Businesses expire and rapidly descend into failure.
What intrigued me to investigate the matter was the viciousness of the virus attack on airline business in Nigeria. How long shall we watch airlines fade away into oblivion without a blink? How should this freefall be checked?
EMMANUEL O. ONWUKA