Despite the euphoria, Imo Air might not succeed

To the amazement of many, Imo state has just launched Imo Air, a local airline that will provide commercial flights to the state.

Imo Air is a joint partnership with Dana Airlines, a commercial aviation company which will be competing with Imo Air as well.

According to the Imo state Governor, Rochas Oke Rocha as quoted by Vanguard Newspaper, “this is a happy moment in the State. The aim of going into the Air business is because I want to drive traffic to Imo State as Imo is genuinely becoming the fastest developing City outside Abuja and Lagos. For this, there is need for more airlines to cushion the effects of high traffic coming to the State”.

Revealing the details of the deal, Governor Okorocha told Vanguard:

“Imo government does not have an operating air license. So we needed to partner with a good and qualified airline operator. Hence, the choice of DANA Air because of its proven track record and sincerity of purpose. The Imo Air will be operated by DANA and we have a contract of ten years with them. We have five of this aircraft and the first one has just landed and four other ones will start operation in few weeks time”.

Imo Air plans to offer 10% discounts to its indigenous. How it plans to enforce and implement this approach is not clear. The airline’s deal with Dana Air is not also properly spelt out. It is not known whether Dana Air will leave Imo Air to service Sam Mbakwe Airport and other routes in the region or both airlines will run totally independent operations.

Apart from the fine details of the deal which are still opaque, there are key challenges ahead of Imo Air. First is funding. While the Governor has tried to downplay the role of funding in the project, it is still fundamental. Imo state is among many states that still grapple with paying workers salaries and pensions. Operating an airline might in the medium to long term become a luxury.

An alternative to doing this kind of business is to not just partner an airline that will not bring serious funding to the table. Imo state can partner a Lagos state that has a deep pocket, highest air traffic to any part of the country and a robust aviation environment.

There are fears that Imo Air might become another white elephant project that might burn out as soon as funding become an issue.

However, if the state makes it a totally private affair in funding and management, the venture might fledge out to be something worthwhile.

Taking a shareholding in a business like this is wiser than playing the money bag role. However, it will be interesting to see if Imo Air will prove a point by succeeding giving its foundation.

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