‘Nigeria offers lowest ground handling rate in the world’

Despite the depreciating value of Naira, aviation ground handling firms’ charges in Nigeria are said to be the lowest in the world; a situation, operators said was no longer sustainable.

Thorough analytical study shows that Nigeria offers the lowest ground handling rate in West Africa in comparison to Ghana, Cameroon, Senegal and other Francophone airports.

Consequently, stakeholders are meeting with a view to arriving at what would be the appropriate pricing for the same services in other parts of the world.

Managing Partner. Aglow Aviation Support Services Limited, Tayo Ojuri said it is pertinent to note that a safe and reliable flight requires a whole range of ground services to be safely and successfully completed on the ground between aircraft arrival and departure according to a common set of requirements that can be implemented worldwide in a standardized manner. With the growth of air traffic, ground operations have become increasingly complex.


Aviation ground handling firm in operation

In order to ensure safe, secure and commercial operations, ground handling charges need to be competitive and be a true reflection of cost of operations”, he noted.

 In Nigeria, ground handlers like the Nigerian Aviation Handling Company (NAHCO), Plc, Skyway Aviation Handling Company (SAHCO) Plc and others charge less than every others in the region, sometimes as low as 200 to 300 percent less.

Some of the stakeholders have urged Aviation Handling Services (AHS),Nigerian Aviation Handling Company Plc (Nahco Aviance) and the Skyway Aviation Handling Company (SAHCO) Plc to consider price adjustment, instead of price increase, in order to survive the effects of the current pandemic, Covid-19.

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It is observed that ground handling rates in Nigeria is the lowest in the entire African countries, if not the world and this has been a thorny issue for over a decade.

In Guinea ground handling fee costs  $1,673  for (narrow body) and $4,715 (wide body) aircraft; Senegal – $2,250 (narrow body) and $5,259 (wide body); Cameroon – $1,400 (narrow body) and $4,500 (wide body;  Sierra Leone – $2,250 (narrow body) and $5,250 (wide body);  Ghana – $1,500 (narrow body) and $4,150 (wide body).

In Nigeria, the rates oscillate between $400 and $1,139 (narrow body), depending on the negotiating power of a foreign carrier and $3,000 and $3,200 (wide body), depending on the negotiation of the foreign carrier and this has been since 1999.

Former Managing Director of NAHCO Plc, Mr. Kayode Oluwasegun-Ojo told New Telegraph that the situation has serious impact on ground handlers, adding that it would not allow cost recovery by the service providers.

His words, “Lack of sustainability for aviation has serious implications because aviation actually starts from the ground and you land back on the ground. It is the ground handling companies that do that. If you are charging less than cost, it means you are subsidizing from somewhere and this will have an impact on the service you provide, equipment on the ground and others”.

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“You know that most accidents/incidents in the aviation industry actually occur on take-off and landing. So, it is extremely important that we take care of what happens on the ground and in this case, via the ground handlers in charging the cost-reflective tariff. That means you can recover costs with some margins for hospitality, including being able to pay taxes to the government. Companies that make losses will not be able to pay taxes”.

He called for the quick intervention of Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) by calling people together – airlines and the ground handling companies to talk about it.

Former Director General of NCAA, Dr. Harold Demuren said it becomes imperative that foreign airlines pay the dollar equivalent for ground handling services rendered to it in order to ensure the survival of the Aviation Ground Handling companies.

Former Managing Director of SAHCO, Oluropo Owolabi said, “This issue has been on for more than a decade and it is unfortunate that our government is sitting idle, acting as if this thing doesn’t affect them. It affects the government, foreign exchange, FAAN and even the NCAA being the regulatory body. It is a tripartite agreement”.

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“When you fly straight, within the next 25 minutes, you are in Accra. Then, you ask how much they handle a wide and narrow body aircraft over there. It is completely different from what they are paying in Nigeria. In fact, it is a peanut. When you move further to other West African countries, you will see the disparities and they are unbelievable. Move to South Africa, Europe and America, the disparities are unbelievable.

“The point is, how much are you paying for air tickets 10 years, five years and even three years ago? Is it the same as you are paying now? Handing prices must move at par as what we are paying on tickets”, he added.

He reiterated the need to work out something that will be a win-win situation for the airlines and ground handler; something he said would enable them to still be in business and provide adequate service to their customers.

These he said are standards set by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).

Wole Shadare