Air travel catalyses economic devt but harsh economic environment does airlines no good – AON  

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The Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) has said that the domestic airlines are bedeviled with a contagion of challenges including but not limited to scarcity of dollars, skyrocketing cost of handling and airport charges, high aircraft maintenance cost, exorbitant price of aviation fuel as well as the uncertainty associated with leasing aircraft to Nigerian carriers.

Spokesman for the airlines’ body, Dr Obiora Okonkwo stated this in a press statement.

As fallout of the present economic situation in the country, Okonkwo also said passenger traffic has shrunk because those who would otherwise spend money on flight tickets to attend events would rather send credit alerts to their hosts who would graciously accept such kind gesture.

Worse still, the AON spokesman said airline operators do not have special forex allocation noting that “they buy at the same place traders who trade (in) Brazilian hair, textiles and others buy.”

Okonkwo also said the operators’ passion to remain in business “is being eroded” adding that some airlines are gasping for breath while some are already in the intensive care unit.

The statement reads: “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.

“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.

“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 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 their terms, all the standard criteria but the aircraft owners consider country risk above other factors. Country risk supersedes everything and lessors have their own obligations. There is nothing personal. Some airlines deposited money with the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, but they cannot provide us the needed dollars.”