The Airline Operators of Nigeria have expressed deep concern regarding the escalating cost of operations, amidst the surge in aviation fuel prices exceeding N1,300.
This was disclosed in a statement on Friday by the Spokesman of Airline Operators of Nigeria, Obiora Okonkwo.
Okonkwo in the statement stressed the critical need for immediate government intervention to prevent the collapse of numerous airlines.
The airlines said that the fluctuation in forex rates and the soaring cost of aviation fuel at N1,300 per litre have disrupted operational planning and stability within the aviation sector.
Okonkwo, who also chairs United Nigeria Airlines, explained that the unforeseen increase in aviation fuel prices from N700 per litre and the rise in the exchange rate to N1400/$1 have resulted in significant losses for airlines.
Passengers who purchased tickets well in advance under previous rates are now being airlifted at the current higher costs, further impacting the airlines’ loss in the revenue stream, he claimed.
“We are making losses on factors that are beyond our control. We are not only faced with the problem of scarcity of dollars; even the aviation ecosystem is feeling the heat. Handling companies have increased the cost of their services, airports have increased their charges and those that service the aircraft have also increased the cost of their services. The monies for these payments are coming from the passengers who are already exhausted financially,” he said.
Okonkwo also noted that numerous businesses in Nigeria are experiencing low returns, leading to a decline in the number of essential passengers traveling during both peak and off-peak seasons. As a result, the airlines struggle to maintain adequate load factors to support their operations during the current low season, as there are fewer travelers for tourism and social engagements.
“Passenger traffic has shrunk because even those on social engagement like weddings, burials, and other ceremonies may not be inclined to spend money on flight tickets; they would rather send credit alerts to those hosting the events who would appreciate such gestures. So, they pay instead of appearing in person,” he added.
“Air travel is a catalyst to economic development. There should have been government engagement with airlines at different levels. Airlines do not have special forex allocation; so, they buy at the same place traders who trade in Brazilian hair, textiles, and others buy.
“Our passion to remain in this business is being eroded. We are at the point of oxygen supply. Some airlines are going into a coma. Our equipment is diminishing. The minimal revenues we earn to keep the airlines flying, we convert to pay our lessors.
“It is impossible to bring in more aircraft. Aircraft owners have become skeptical because of country risk. A Nigerian airline may meet its terms, and all the standard criteria but the aircraft owners consider country risk above other factors. Country risk supersedes everything and lessors have their obligations. So, there is nothing personal. Some airlines deposited money with the Central Bank of Nigeria but they cannot provide us the needed dollars,” he said.
Hafsoh Isiaq is a graduate of Linguistics. An avid writer committed to creative, high-quality research and news reportage. She has considerable experience in writing and reporting across a variety of platforms including print and online.