Airlines bleed, overwhelmed, lost $60M to bird strikes, N20B to flight delay

  • Extinction fears grip carriers,  seek help
  • Deny fare collusion
  • Want end to multiple designations to foreign carriers

Nigerian airlines are in dire straits. They are seeking help to make them remain afloat as they hinted that they are overwhelmed with issues that threatened their existence.

Rising from a meeting, the airlines said they lost $60 million to bird strikes in 2021 with Air Peace recording 14 bird strikes in 2021 and four this year already.

Bird strike is a collision between an airborne animal, usually a bird or bat, and a moving vehicle, usually an aircraft.

A significant threat to flight safety, bird strikes have caused a number of accidents with human casualties.

Some AON Executives at a briefing

Most accidents occur when a bird (or birds) collides with the windscreen or is sucked into the engine of jet aircraft.

These cause annual damages that have been estimated at $400 million within the United States alone and up to $1.2 billion to commercial aircraft worldwide.

 In addition to property damage, collisions between man-made structures and conveyances and birds are a contributing factor, among many others, to the worldwide decline of many avian species.

However, the carrier said figures available to them indicate that operators lost N20 billion to flight delay, arguing that 98 percent of the causes of flight delay reside outside the purview of the airlines.

Chairman, Air Peace,  Allen Onyema said the occurrence of bird strikes is worrisome, thanking God that no accident had been recorded as a result of the menace, adding had already his airline had 14 bird strikes last year and four this year, adding that each bird strike occurrence costs the airline $1.4 million to change a damaged engine.

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Onyema predicted extinction for many of the carriers within a few weeks if nothing was done about the high cost of aviation fuel that had skyrocketed to between N400 and N450 per litre within a space of one year, high airport charges including over 35 other charges by government agencies, increased cost of ground handling charges and scarcity of foreign exchange among others.

 

He noted that the perennial sundry charges that are levied at local and international airports nationwide have placed Nigeria among the most expensive aviation countries in Africa.

The cumulative charges, which on the average double European and Middle Eastern countries’ charges, have been traced as responsible for the stunted growth of aviation in Nigeria.

Stakeholders are of the view that local airlines would have very slim chances of survival under the current regime of multiple taxes numbering 35.

According to the airlines, the charges account for between 38 and 65 percent of revenue accruing to them.

“Jet A1 price has risen to N430 per litre. It is only a stupid man that will not know that there is fire on the mountain. The ground handling firms hiked fees by 300 percent. What should airlines do in this situation?, Onyema asked.

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“Forex scarcity has hit us so badly and has risen by 200 percent. What should we do? Over 50 airlines have closed shops in this country in less than ten years. These are the reasons many airlines have gone into extinction. We pay about 37 charges. No wonder no Nigerian airline is that strong”.

The Air Peace boss took a cursory look into the debt profile of the airline, saying, “You need to look at the debt profile of the airlines which is humungous”.

Cumulatively, many of the carriers are indebted to all the aviation agencies to the tune of N22 billion.

Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, in 2020, disclosed that the local airlines’ total debt burden to regulatory agencies stood at N22 billion.

A breakdown showed the sum of N19.37 billion and $6,993,284 million (N2.7 billion) as unremitted Ticket Sales Charge (TSC), and Cargo Sales Charge (CSC) collected on behalf of the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) and its sister agencies.

Sirika said that the debts in question were not general charges as erroneously stated by the AON, but a mandatory charge on passengers and cargo, which the airlines had collected on behalf of the NCAA and other regulatory agencies, but were not remitted.

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The operators debunked insinuations that they raised fares on domestic routes, stressing that the carriers did not get together to fix airfares.

They opposed multiple designations to foreign airlines citing Qatar Airways and Ethiopian Airlines that operate to many points to and from Nigeria.

Qatar Airways had in January 2022 said it was boosting its service to Nigeria with the launch of four weekly flights to Kano on March 2, 2022, and three weekly flights to Port-Harcourt on March 3rd, 2022, both operating via the Nigerian capital, Abuja.

But experts who have always advocated for destinations for foreign airlines to be limited to one international airport said that if this policy of granting multiple entries continues, local airlines will be negatively affected.

Aviation security expert John Ojikutu told our correspondent that local airlines won’t profit from assigning more than two airports in Nigeria to foreign airlines which exposes them to domestic routes and into the domestic markets of the domestic airlines.

 

Wole Shadare