Another Nigerian start-up, Cardinal Airlines (Abuja), is reportedly going through the Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC) process with the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) with plans to commence domestic operations from Abuja by the end of the third quarter of 2021.

The company has applied to use Embraer jets and ATR - Avions de Transport Régional turboprops due to their cost effectiveness on domestic and regional routes, according to local media.

Its application for an air transport licence (ATL) is at an advanced stage, the reports said. The NCAA was not immediately available for comment.

Cardinal Airlines founder and chairman Alhaji Masud Bashir, who has a background in real estate, reportedly launched the venture to bring more affordable airfares to Nigerians. The airline will have its operational base in Abuja but will operate to all airports across the country, he disclosed, adding that he plans to take off with four aircraft and later increase the fleet as operations progress. The company was registered in Abuja on July 15, 2019, according to ch-aviation research.

Despite the economic setbacks related to COVID-19, Nigeria is seeing a boom in new carriers. Green Africa Airways (Q9, Lagos) had been hoping to start in June 2021, but this was delayed to July as its AOC was not available before then "due to unforeseen circumstances", the company announced on social media. Bookings have since opened for flights starting August 1.

This follows Ibom Air (QI, Uyo) starting operations in 2019, followed by United Nigeria (Lagos) in February 2021. Chanchangi Airlines (NCH, Kaduna) is trying to make a comeback having obtained an AOC in April 2021. Also waiting in the wings is NG Eagle (2N, Lagos), which is in the final stages of certification, the NCAA has confirmed, as well as Binani Air (Lagos), Obike Air, and now Cardinal Airlines.

The former chief executive of Aero Contractors (N2, Lagos), Ado Sanusi, told the newspaper ThisDay that the emergence of new carriers was being made possible by the federal government creating a more conducive environment by introducing policies to stimulate fresh investment in the aviation industry, such as removing import duty and value-added tax on imported aircraft and spares. The industry has also been anticipating improved foreign exchange access. More airlines do not necessarily mean a dilution of the existing market, he said, as many will develop secondary routes.