Scarcity of Forex, high price of aviation fuel threatening our operations – Airline operators

Airline Operators of Nigeria, AON, has lamented what it termed existential threats, saying scarcity of Forex, skyrocketing price of Jet-A1, now N1,300 per litre and difficulty in acquiring aircraft due to country risk, among others, are some of the challenges faced by members.

The operators, who called for urgent intervention from the Federal Government, stated that aircraft due for maintenance have been grounded and cannot be ferried overseas due to Forex scarcity.

AON’s Spokesman, Professor Obiora Okonkwo, in a statement, said if this continues, the country may not have operating aircraft for domestic services.

He also said airlines need special allocation of dollars for their survival because dollars are used for purchasing aircrafts and fleet maintenance.

The statement reads: “We are making losses on factors that are beyond our control. We are not only faced with the problem of scarcity of dollars; even the aviation ecosystem is feeling the heat. Handling companies have increased the cost of their services, airports have increased their charges and those that service the aircraft have also increased the cost of their services. The monies for these payments are coming from the passengers who are already exhausted financially.

“Passenger traffic has shrunk because even those on social engagement like weddings, burials and other ceremonies may not be inclined to spend money on flight tickets; they would rather send credit alerts to those hosting the events who would appreciate such gestures. So, they pay instead of appearing in person.

“Air travel is a catalyst to economic development. There should have been government engagement with airlines at different levels. Airlines do not have special forex allocation; so, they buy at the same place traders who trade Brazilian hair, textiles and others buy. Our passion to remain in this business is being eroded. We are at the point of oxygen supply. Some airlines are going into a coma. Our equipment is diminishing. The minimal revenues we earn to keep the airlines flying, we convert to pay our lessors.

“It is impossible to bring in more aircraft. Aircraft owners have become skeptical because of country risk. A Nigerian airline may meet their terms, all the standard criteria but the aircraft owners consider country risk above other factors. Country risk supersedes everything and lessors have their own obligations. There is nothing personal. Some airlines deposited money with the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, but they cannot provide us the needed dollars.”

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