IATA: Africa’s ageing fleet poses risk


Africa’s ageing airplanes pose environment risk and huge costs in terms of fuel, Director-General of International Air Transport Association (IATA) Alexandre de Juniac, has said.
Consequently, he tasked African airlines to acquire fuel-efficient airplanes to cut their losses.
The IATA boss made this call in an interview with Woleshadarenews recently in Seoul, South Korea.
He also said newer aircraft fleet is the best way to go for the continent’s carriers.

“Fleet renewal is considered because of environmental issues and huge cost of aviation fuel as airlines now acquire fuel efficient airplanes,” he said.

“They are concentrating more on this in Europe, United States and Asia. We have ageing fleet in Africa. In the continent, if you have a big growth, you have to have a fuel-efficient fleet.” Jet fuel prices are 40 per cent higher than last year, with more than half of that rise coming in the past three months, as crude oil prices reach the highest level since 2014 and mounting demand globally for air travel pushes up total fuel consumption.

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Assuming these trends persist, airlines could be looking at significant future operating cost increases.

Yet, many carriers have still not fully embraced emerging technologies that allow them to optimize aircraft performance and reduce fuel consumption. Given that fuel constitutes anywhere from 25 per cent to even 30 per cent of total industry expenses, a cut of a couple of percentage points could save airlines around the world billions, even if fuel prices stabilise.

It also would help airlines live up to international targets for greenhouse-gas emissions.
One potentially powerful strategy might be to convert today’s static flight planning into a more dynamic model, allowing airlines to eke out every possible operating savings by making adjustments on the go.

In Nigeria, 90 per cent of aircraft are geriatric. This is caused by the fact that virtually all of the operators can’t afford some of the newer airplanes like B787, B737MAX, A320, A321 and A350 airplanes. Each of the aircraft costs over $350 million and above.
The average age of airplanes used in Nigeria is between 16 and 20 years. But experts are quick to disconnect aviation safety with the age of an aircraft.

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Over the years, Nigerian airline operators’ fleet size has been on the downward spiral as a result of the size and weakness of the carriers.
Cumulatively, scheduled airlines in Nigeria have less than 40 airplanes in service, underscoring the shortage of equipment for a market of over 180 million people.

The wrong use of equipment has equally affected many carriers who have their aircraft grounded because of huge costs of maintaining their Boeing airplanes.

With the skyrocketing cost of aviation fuel, airlines are said to be spending more money on operation cost and may not save money to pay for high maintenance checks, like C-Checks, which could cost as much as $600,000 or more.

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So, when their aircraft are due for check, they ground it as Aircraft on Ground (AOG). The situation is made worse by the high exchange rate and the inability of the airlines to access foreign currency despite the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)’s extension of easier forex window to the airlines.

According to industry insiders, Nigerian airlines have lost about 40 per cent of their fleet since early last year and the number of aircraft on AOG may continue to increase, as airlines find it increasingly difficult to access forex and their finances continue to deplete due to recession and reduction in passenger traffic.

Wole Shadare