Domestic airlines existence under threat, says Union

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  • seeks FG immediate intervention

By Odunewu Segun

With the staff strengths of domestic airlines shrinking from 5,000 to less than 2,500 due to failure of airlines and the prevailing economic crisis, President, National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers (NAAPE), comrade Isaac Balami has called on the government to come to the aid of domestic carriers.

He said although the airline business appeared attractive from outside, but the carriers faced humongous challenges which threatened their existence. For instance, he said, the price of aviation fuel known as Jet A1 selling for N250 and above per litre was not sustainable.

“The truth of the matter is that it is a very good thing that new airlines are coming in but the government should provide the enabling environment not just for the new ones coming but the existing ones to be able to sustain their operations.’’

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Another expert and former pilot with the defunct Nigerian Airways, Capt. Ibrahim Yinusa Kazaure, said it was one thing for the new airlines to acquire AOC, and another thing for them to have the resources to operate because the airline business “is very complex and highly capital intensive.”

He said if the owners of the coming airlines were genuine investors, they would need to entrench prudent management system to avoid financial excesses. President of Aviation Roundtable, Elder Gabriel Olowo, said government should address the foreign exchange challenges inhibiting the growth and sustenance of airlines.

Recalled that Aero Contractors, the oldest airline in the country, recently sacked 60 per cent of its workforce (about 1,000 workers) thus contributing to the drop in the industry strength.

Arik Air, the largest employer of labour in the industry, is struggling with just four aircraft from about 30 with many of the workers being rendered redundant. Checks by Daily Trust showed that all domestic airlines put together have less than 40 aircraft.

National Daily gathered that about 18 firms are already seeking to begin flight operations into the country, but expert have also caution that necessary infrastructures and policies be put in place first as to avoid present predicaments of existing operators.

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