Local airlines bemoan N44b loss to flight delays, bird strikes
Deny collusion on fare spike
Local airlines, yesterday, bemoaned losses in excess of N44.6 billion, incurred due to flight delays and bird strikes in the last 12 months.
Specifically, the 11 airlines said they lost N20 billion to multiple flight delays, while Air Peace alone lost $60 million (N24.66 billion) to 18 bird strikes from 2021 to date.
The operators, who said they are victims of an inefficient air transport system, denied allegation of colluding to push up fares, even as they called for intervention to avert industry collapse.
The operators, lately, came under criticism for flight delays and spike in fares. The carriers had recently pushed minimum fares up by 63 per cent, in response to the spike in prices of aviation fuel and attendant cost of operation.
The upward adjustment pegged minimum Economy Class tickets at around N50,000 for future flights, with ‘today’s flight’ travellers buying the same one-hour one-way tickets at an average of N80,000 each.
The Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) denied conspiracy in fare spike, saying more than 80 per cent of delays were caused by factors outside operators’ control.
Chairman of Air Peace airline, Allen Onyema, said incidences of bird strikes are worrisome, having recorded 14 last year and four this year.
Onyema said each bird strike on the engine cost the airline at least $1.4 million in repairs, “which is not sustainable”.
He predicted the extinction for many carriers within few weeks, if nothing is done about the high cost of aviation fuel, which has ballooned to between N400 and N450/litre in one year, coupled with high airport charges, including over 35 other charges by government agencies, increased cost of ground handling charges, and scarcity of foreign exchange among others.
He said: “Forex scarcity has hit us so badly and has risen by 200 per cent. What should we do? Over 50 airlines have closed shop in this country in less than 10 years. These are the reasons many airlines have gone into extinction. We pay about 37 charges. No wonder no Nigerian airline is that strong. You need to look at the debt profile of the airlines, which is humungous.”
The operators debunked insinuations that they raised fares on domestic routes, stressing that carriers never came together to fix airfares.
They also opposed multiple designations to foreign airlines, citing Qatar Airways and Ethiopian Airlines that operate many points.