A couple of days ago, some friends and I got together for coffee. After a few cups of coffee, we began to talk about owning a private jet. We decided it would be too expensive to maintain and opted for time-sharing, if we could find one in Nigeria. JetWest is not a private jet company, but probably because of the discussion we’d had the day before, this article on CNN caught my attention.
The Nigerian aviation industry is one which has been hit by several factors. With the country going through a recession, suddenly once affordable air fare has become ridiculously expensive. More people are opting for road travel, even though it is not always safe.
There is enough to discourage anyone from starting an airline in Nigeria’s present clime. Unless that person is Dikko Nwachukwu.
Described as a “Serial Entrepreneur” Nwachukwu is the founder of JetWest, a new airline that could take it’s first flight in December.
JetWest aims to bring down the cost of air travel.
According to Nwachukwu, JetWest is about democratizing the skies with a guiding vision “to make air travel accessible for more people.” They will do this by focusing on the core of the business and paring down to essentials.
This is not a novel concept in other parts of the world, Malaysia’s AirAsia does practically the same and provides really affordable air travel. However it is a first in Nigeria and giving what is at stake, not everyone believes that it will work.
The CNN article quoted Ivan Nadalet, vice president at industry analysts’ CH Aviation, who was of the opinion that operating in Nigeria would not be that easy. According to him, “Nigeria looks like a low-cost operator’s dream with massive population density… But Nigeria is a very difficult operating environment…the economy has collapsed and there is no foreign exchange, so it is very difficult to get revenue out of the country for leases.”
Can JetWest pull it off?
That is the question most observers are asking. The task looks daunting and the risk ernomous. Nwachukwu does not deny the risk involved, however if everything should go well, the payoff could be well worth the risk.
It’s difficult to tell if this is going to work because Nigeria is a funny country when it comes to investments and is not always easy to predict. But it is clear that Dikko Nwachukwu knows exactly what he is doing and seems knowledgeable, not just about the sector, but about the region and demographics.
Then again, he’s been at this for the past 4 years, when his Red 1 airline signed a Memorandum of understanding with Fastjet to launch a new airline to fly across destinations in Africa. The CEO of Fastjet, Ed Winter acknowledged that Red 1 had “extensive knowledge of the local aviation market and Nigerian business landscape…”
Is JetWest really the answer to air travel in Nigeria? It’s really difficult to say with certainty that it is, but if Nwachukwu pulls it off, it will make a vast difference in the aviation landscape in Nigeria and Africa as a whole.