Airlines decry low passenger traffic, high cost of fuel

Some domestic airlines in Nigeria have decried “continuous decline in passenger traffic’’ and increasing cost of aviation fuel also known as Jet A1.

Speaking with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Wednesday in Abuja, Mr Abdullahi Saroke, Deputy Station Manager, Azman Air, said that many airlines were currently not having good in the business.

Saroke said that the price of fuel had increased by 100 per cent while the patronage had decreased by 30 per cent in recent time.

He added that the airlines that usually had its seats fully occupied in flight were now struggling to have up to 75 per cent of their seats booked and boarded.

According to him, it has not been easy for most airlines to cope with this situation occasioned by the current recession, including scarcity of dollar and high cost of fuel.

“As at January/ February, we were buying fuel at the rate of N115 and N120 per litre but as it stands today, a litre is sold at N220 in Lagos and N230 in Abuja.

“In places like far North such as Yola and Maiduguri, it sold at N250 per litre if you are able to get it.

“This has made it extremely difficult for the airlines to cope but for now, we will continue to manage the situation and fly because you cannot park the aircraft on ground.

“This is because in airline business it is only when you take off and land that you make money.

“What we simply do in Azman is to cancel some flights or try to reduce those frequencies, especially for Mondays and Tuesdays out of Abuja because those are low traffic days.

“So we try to see how we can merge flights to remain afloat to be able to break even,’’ Saroke said.

He said that the situation was also part of the reasons for the suspension of flight by Aero Contractor and the temporal shut down of operation by First Nation airline in September.

He added that if the situation lingered further, it could lead to loss of jobs in the industry, stressing that no airline would continue to pay salaries if they were not making profit.

According to the manager, no airline can continue to manage its entire work force for too long if the situation persists as they may look for a way to cut cost which may affect jobs in the long run.

He urged the Federal Government to take urgent steps towards addressing the challenges confronting airlines in the country, especially the domestic ones.

Sareko explained that the increase in the cost of ticket by the airlines did not commensurate with cost of operation, saying that the increment was about 30 per cent.