‘Domestic airfares unreasonable’

THE federal government has been cautioned against preventing the domestic airlines from increasing the present airfare regimes being charged on the local routes.

Describing the present fares as unreasonable to the operational cost and its offshore components, the Managing Director of Centurion Security Services and a member of the Aviation Round Table Group, Captain John Ojikutu (retired), said the present fares being charged were not commensurate with the huge difference between the Dollar and Naira.

Ojikutu who was reacting to the recent statement credited to the Minister of aviation, Hadi Sirika, that there would be no increase in air fare, called on the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) and the airlines operators to have a critical rethink on this now, saying the need became necessary because of the COVID-19 pandemic which he said could be worst for the industry in Nigeria than anywhere else.

His words: “Air fares today are very unreasonable to the operational cost and its offshore components. Like I said earlier; when a Dollar was N40, air fare was N40,000 to the Dollar ($1,000) and about N3,800/N4,000 ($100) to places like Abuja, Port Harcourt and Enugu. $1,000 (N450,000) is still stable fare to the USA but $100 (N45,000) is not what you see as the conservative airfare to an hour flight in Nigeria. In the days of $1/N40, we were refining our fuels but today, $1/N460 we import fuel. The airfare can never be reasonable at a rate less than $100 or N40,000-N45,000 to Abuja or anywhere in Nigeria within 45 minutes to an hour.

“Am seriously worried about the  statement credited to the Minister that there would be no increase in airfare. I think the NCAA and the airlines operators need to make critical rethinking on this now, not because the need becomes necessary because of the COVID-19 pandemic but because it had been long due before the pandemic and could be worse for the industry in Nigeria than anywhere else.

I remember very well that when the dollar was N40 in the early 1990s, airfare to the US was about N40,000 or $1,000 and N3,800 from Lagos to Enugu when aviation fuel was being refined and sufficiently available. Today, $1 is N460 and airlines are selling tickets to Abuja and Enugu at N33,000 or less when fuel is being imported at subsidised prices. We are just very unserious people. No amount of palliative or low interest rate from the CBN can save the Nigerian domestic airlines from where we are because the business plans that most of them submitted to and approved by the NCAA are faulty from the start of their operations.

“The level most of them are at now is not necessarily about COVID-19 pandemic. COVID-19 has only exposed the negligence of compliance and the enforcement of the necessary provisions of the Nigerian  Civil Aviation Regulations (CARs).”



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