Captain Dapo Majekodunmi is the Managing Director of Valuejet, a start-up Nigerian airline. In this interview, he said the aim of the airline is to ensure that passengers get the best for their airfare through flawless and efficient service the carrier has set to offer.
As a budding airline, what are those things that stand you out?
As much as we are a startup, I have experience with what an airline should look like. Professionally exposed, we have flown as experts in different countries, and we have seen the standards. We think that our passengers also deserve the same and even better. You would understand that these aircraft are built by the Western world. It is easier for them to assess spare parts and little things that would keep airplanes going, day by day without expecting a delivery from DHL or FED EX plus custom. We have been putting all effort towards stocking spares and other accessories, as much as we can. We want to keep our aircraft clean, tidy, and attractive for people to fly. You can see the airline has a very beautiful feminine color. We wish we could start providing affordable internet service, inflight shopping, and games on our aircraft.
I know most Nigerians will be looking forward to such services very soon. We already have a unique boarding time. We will keep it up or make it better. We really need to keep our passengers busy with smiles from the crew. The Nigerian passengers deserve more than this. They know, because they travel abroad and they have seen everything that can be seen.
So why not make it available for them here in Nigeria?
The passengers also need to help the operators serve them better by answering the questionnaires. Questions like how you will prefer to be served, what’s your final town destination; was the public address system audible enough, and why would you want to fly us again? Question of how to rate our services from 1-10, how best can we please you? We need feedback. With feedback, we will know what we are doing wrong and move the right direction. That will progress us out of our comfort zone.
Why the choice of CRJ aircraft you deployed on this market considering that many who came before you introduced bigger aircraft?
Fuel efficiency is one of the key reasons; comfort and technology are behind it. The CRJ aircraft technology is friendly to the pilots. Most airlines fly the common B737. They all thought they were doing the right thing when the aviation gas Jet A1 was selling for as low as N100 per liter compared to today’s N800 per litre. Secondly, the flight trips around Nigeria are all in the region of a one-hour flight. The regional flights are in the region of three hours. With the CRJ’s excellent fuel consumption of five hours plus endurance with full tanks, with the capability of 90 passengers, that’s the magic aircraft for this region. At the time they were using bigger aircraft, fuel was not as expensive as it is now. Steel and fuel were cheap in America at the time. American cars were known to be very big and poor on fuel. Today, the American market is all after fuel-efficient European cars. The Americans now know that it is either they make their cars more aerodynamic or their customers will settle for European cars. We have studied a situation whereby we maintain good safety, make some money and most importantly, let the passengers enjoy the quality of a streamlined aircraft; that was the birth of the CRJ 900 for ValueJet. The seat numbers are not that much, but 90 seats are just enough to serve our popular routes like Abuja, Port-Harcourt, Asaba, and Benin. Jos will also be joining by the first week of February 2023. Jos people have long awaited our service.
You took it gradually, and now you are doing gradual expansion. Can you tell me the reason for not taking many routes at the same time?
Well, I would say that you need to test the soil and know what is there for you. You need to start gradually by going there and seeing the passenger building. We need to go there and try to give our best services to win the passengers to fly ValueJet. You will find many passengers coming to Lagos, who don’t live in Lagos. Don’t be surprised that a reasonable percentage of them are going to places like Abeokuta Ibadan, Ikenne, Ijebu, and so on. Those are things we believe the questionnaire should tell us. The government can then start thinking of putting airports in the area. That is what we should be advising as aviators.
You promised to start scheduled cargo operations. Is it going to be an all-cargo operation or mixed with passengers?
The cargo operation will be an all-cargo operation with cargo airplanes. It will be available for cargo consolidators, courier services, and logistics companies for better and faster movement of goods. The potentials are big while looking to give service to the postal services, and online stores to better improve their delivery. We are also very open to the West Coast cargo operation.
Is West Coast in your plan because it can be lucrative for
There are a lot of places on the West Coast with great potential. We don’t all have to fly to Ghana. You are starting to see overcapacity in that area. There are too many airlines there. We need to look at Africa to see how we can connect with the rest of the world. I would look into code-sharing arrangements with other airlines in Africa into Europe, Asia, and America. You all know Senegal is the closest part of Africa to Brazil and the United States. They have an airline that flies in that direction. I think if we want to go on international operations in the region, our operations will be to code-share with other African airlines to give us better coverage of the world. It is not just going to Accra that will be our target; our target will be how to connect our passengers to the rest of the outside world Europe and America. North Africa flights can be a good code-share into Europe.
How come in Nigeria, code-share has not been a success? Why can’t two or three airlines come up with this beautiful idea? Is ValueJet looking in that direction?
I think statistics will have to determine that. We think code sharing is better with the proper understanding. Once we can have the platform, the airline can work with it. I think the biggest issue will be how to process the clearing house. It’s workable. You just have to fine-tune the agreement and see where the grey areas might be. That is a direction the operator should all look at. It’s working well with Air France- KLM.
You recently clocked 100 days as an airline.;how does it feel?
One hundred days is just another day for us. We will be working every other day after the 100 days to make our operations better. Every day that comes is a day we have to look at what next to do to give our passengers that satisfaction.