Local airlines set for operations, market new rates
• Reps kick over airline’s N13b debt to FAAN
Local airlines yesterday marketed new fare rates as part of the preparation for flight resumption in the COVID-19 era. Some of the operators, apparently in line with the expected hike in fares and higher cost of operations, have slightly raised fares from the average of N24, 000 for one-way one-hour flight to N30, 000, for a start.
However, central to the airlines is the new safety protocols that mandate all intending passengers to make bookings and check-in online, arrive early at the airports, submit selves for checks and screenings and properly kitted with face masks.
The Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, recently announced that domestic flights would resume on July 8. Sirika also disclosed that only the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja and the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos would commence operations on July 8.
The Kano, Port Harcourt, Owerri, and Maiduguri airports will reopen to flights on July 11, while other airports across the country will join on July 15. All the eight operating airlines yesterday expressed readiness to hit the airspace from next week.
The Guardian observed that the opening Lagos to Abuja economy flights readily sells for N29, 189 on Arik Air. The business class sells from N89, 952 upwards. Economy return fare was from N53, 000, while business class return was pegged at N199, 867.
Air Peace airlines opened with fairly higher rate of N33, 000 on one-way economy class ticket. The business fare starts from N66, 000. The Chief Operating Officer of one of the local carriers said times were indeed different, with fresh safety hurdles for operators to comply with and attendant high cost of operations.
Aviation consultant, Chris Aligbe, expressed satisfaction with the staggered resumption programme and efforts of all operators amid higher cost of operations across the board.
Meanwhile, the House of Representatives Committee on Aviation yesterday kicked over Federal Airports Authority of Nigerian (FAAN) allegation that a local airline owed her N13 billion of unremitted revenue.
The committee has charged FAAN management to provide details of the debt profile not later than Tuesday July 7, 2020.The Committee Chairman, Nnolim Nnaji, described the revelation as a breach of trust by that airline.
The debt disclosure followed a passionate appeal made by the Managing Director of the authority, Captain Rabiu Yadudu, during an interactive session with the committee yesterday.
The lawmakers had summoned Yadudu to explain the rationale behind the 100 per cent increase in passenger service charge (PSC) announced by FAAN in preparations for the partial lifting of domestic flights across the six geopolitical zones.
The service charges were raised from one N1000 on local flight to N2000 and from $50 to $100 on international routes. The panel was convinced that the increase in PSC was inevitable based on the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic for the industry. The lawmakers in a unanimous resolution invited the airline to come and defend the allegation.