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In a market hugely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic on top of rising ticket prices and increased competition, airlines have been urged to synergise their operations in a bid to cut cost without compromising on passenger experience.
The chairman of start-up United Nigeria Airlines, Chief Obiora Okonkwo made the call while asking airlines to merge by way of cutting cost of operations by remaining strongly in the highly competitive aviation market.
Okonkwo who spoke to journalists at the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos equally threw his weight behind interline and codeshare pact among Nigerian carriers, disclosing that his airline is willing and ready to have such relationship with any willing airline.
He further disclosed that his airline has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with some airlines in the country.
Airline interline agreement allows passengers to book through itineraries on multiple airlines with less hassle than booking each one separately. Usually, if two airlines have an interline agreement in place, they will handle the check in and baggage for each other’s passengers.
That means travelers only have to check in once for all the flights on the itinerary and that their baggage will be transferred by the first airline to the second airline, without them having to manually collect it and drop it off again.
A codeshare on the other hand is viewed as the next step up from interlining and sees airlines working together by placing their ‘codes’ on each other’s flights.
Okonkwo singled out scarcity of foreign exchange as one of the challenges Nigerian airlines are faced with, lamenting that as at two weeks ago, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) had not approved application of the United State Dollars to airlines because of scarcity of Forex.
“As at two weeks, CBN had not given dollars to airlines since February 2021 owing to scarcity of foreign currency. Aircraft business is very capital intensive. The solution to survival of airlines is access to spare parts. Aircraft spare parts are not sold here in Nigeria, they are sold overseas. Aviation industry should be given all the necessary support to ensure the survival of airlines”.
Meanwhile, the astronomical cost of aviation fuel popularly known as Jet A1 has been attributed to the sharp rise in the cost of air tickets as Nigerians are seeing alternative in air transportation amid security challenges commuters face on the country’s highway.
In two months, Jet A1 price rose from N160 per liter to N260 per liter; a situation that carriers said would definitely lead to hike in air fares by 50 per cent.
Okonkwo who spoke to journalists at the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos stated that airlines would in most cases resort to increasing fares through adjustment in ticket price as a result of high cost of the commodity.
The price of the commodity is said to be more expensive in other airports aside the Lagos, Abuja and Enugu airport. Most airports have just one aviation fuel marketer; thereby leading to monopoly of supply of the commodity to airlines who queue to get their supplies in many of the airports.
There are indications that huge demand for air travel has outstripped supply amid acute shortage of aircraft by operators occasioned by COVID-19 pandemic as many airlines are operating less than 60 per cent of their capacity prior to coronavirus.
Equally worrisome, operators blamed the spike in air fare to an exchange rate that hit N478 to $1 at the black market, has seen an average one-hour economy class seat of N40, 000 rise to N65, 000 over the counter of some airlines.
The airline chief however stated that he would want to believe that the operators would not be unreasonable with the fixing of ticket prices.
This is just as the airline has also revealed that it is in the process of acquiring land space from the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) in a bid to set up its own Maintenance Repair Overhaul (MRO) facility aimed at serving the airline and others both domestically and in the sub-region.
United since commencing operations eight weeks ago, has airlifted 25,000 passengers already with an average of 3,200 passengers weekly.
Director of Administration of the airline, Mr. Linus Awute who spoke also said the airline was trying to grow organically and so is not mistaken its recent successes in passenger traffic for the norm and that it why it has not introduced more aircraft immediately.Google+