Trouble is this time brewing across the country’s aviation sector no thanks to the intrigues and counter intrigues trailing the new threshold ground charges between the ground handling companies on the one hand and the airlines on ther other.
Prior to to now, it has been observed that for the last amendment to the handing rates by handlers in Nigeria was in 1986.
According to the Chairman of Aviation Ground Handlers in Nigeria ((AGHAN), Mr Olaniyi Adigun and other key players, prior to the furore generated by the handling charges, the charges in Nigeria were regarded as the lowest in the region.
For example prior to now, an operation that cost $4,000 elsewhere, were going for between $400. At $4,000, the government’s 5 per cent was about $200 and that is what Ghanaian government gets for instance, while the Nigerian Government was getting just $20 which has been described as a lot of capital flight out of the country.
While all these imbalance was ongoing, the ground handling companies were groaning under economic hardship more complicated by the wide gap in the exchange rate and finally by the coming of the coronavirus pandemic.
At a point the financial predicament of tge ground handlers almost became overwhelming that they were almost failing in their responsibility to render the services to the airlines both local and foreigners.
While some of them could not maintain their handling equipments those due for replacement were not forthcoming because of high exchange rates.
Amidst all these troubles, stakeholders called on the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) to quickly stepping on behalf of government by reviewing the obsolete charges in other to safe the ground handlers from untimely extinctions.
There came a great relief when the the government through the NCAA approved
a new Safety Threshold Ground Handling Charges for the ground handling companies, commencing from October 1, 2021 (international carriers) and January 1, 2022 for domestic operators.
Thinking the last has been heard, he’ll was again let loose when the airlines with their supporters kicked against the new regime of charges approved after all parties involved were called for deliberations.
With this approval, NAHCO SAHCO PAHCOL and Swissport Handling Companies, can now charge the same handling rates as their counterparts in the sub-African countries.
A document obtained indicated that NCAA has now approved between $1,500 and $5,000 (passenger and cargo flights) for handlers for a narrow and wide body aircraft, respectively, while for domestic operators will now pay between N20,000 and N70,000, depending on the aircraft type.
Narrow body aircraft include Boeing B737, Airbus A320, ER 135 and ATR, while wide body aircraft are B767, A330, B777, B747 and B787.
Since this became a public domain, the airlines had rushed to the National Assembly to prevail on the NCAA to stop the new tariff while the ground handlers have threatened to withdraw their services tomorrow.
Withdrawing their services will automatically lead to chaos as none of the airlines can hardly do self ground handling and the implication of this is that some of the foreign airlines in particular may resulted to help in neighbouring countries at the expense of passengers.
It is at this juncture that the Crucial Moment is appealing to the government to tackle this challenge headlong as any attempt to shift it forward will be tantamount to posting the evils day.
The ground handling companies are essential part of flight operations and therefore, should not be treated with levity. Since they are rendering their services, they deserve to be paid by the airlines after all, the airlines are equally being paid by the passengers. Let the NCAA try to be fair to all sides. There is no sacrifice that is too much for the government to make in this case for it to make the ground handling companies bear the burden thrown at them through the release of a special intervention fund for them.
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