The Airline Operators of Nigeria have raised alarm over the mounting operational costs, as aviation fuel prices surge past N1300 per litre.
In a statement released on Friday by Obiora Okonkwo, the spokesperson for Airline Operators of Nigeria, the industry expressed urgent need for government intervention to avert the collapse of multiple airlines.
The airlines highlighted the impact of fluctuating forex rates and the unprecedented rise in aviation fuel costs to N1,300 per litre, disrupting operational stability within the aviation sector.
Okonkwo, who also chairs United Nigeria Airlines, pointed out that the sudden hike in aviation fuel prices from N700 per litre, coupled with the depreciation of the exchange rate to N1400/$1, has inflicted substantial losses on airlines.
Furthermore, passengers who booked tickets in advance at previous rates are now being transported at the current elevated costs, exacerbating revenue losses for the airlines.
“We are encountering losses due to factors beyond our control. The scarcity of dollars is not the only challenge; the entire aviation ecosystem is under strain. Ground handling companies, airports, and aircraft servicing providers have all raised their fees. These expenses are ultimately borne by passengers who are already financially strained,” he stated.
Okonkwo emphasized that many businesses in Nigeria are experiencing diminished returns, resulting in reduced essential travel during peak and off-peak periods. Consequently, airlines struggle to maintain sufficient load factors to support operations, particularly during the current low season with fewer travelers for tourism and social events.
“Air travel plays a pivotal role in economic development. There should have been ongoing government engagement with airlines at various levels. Airlines do not receive special forex allocations; they purchase currency from the same market as traders in other industries. Our ability to sustain operations is dwindling. Some airlines are on the brink of collapse,” he added.
Okonkwo further highlighted the challenges faced by airlines in acquiring additional aircraft, as lessors are increasingly cautious due to perceived country risks. Despite fulfilling payment obligations, Nigerian airlines encounter difficulties in securing necessary dollars for essential operations.