Without trying to sound like an alarmist, the country’s aviation sector particularly its domestic airline branch is at a precarious state in view of the hardship further thrown at it with the daily increase in the price of aviation fuel and other critical issues which if allowed to continue longer than necessary, may spell doom for domestic air transport.
Obviously, the entire hardship which is speedily dwindling the fortunes of the entire country including private investments is equally telling on the domestic airline business and other activities within the sector.
Only last week, the domestic airlines under the aegis of Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON), raised the alarm indicating how three of its member airlines were at the verge of folding up operations due to the skyrocketing price of aviation fuel which has tripled the cost of operations.
Besides the expensive price of the commodity, another major factor responsible for the hardships facing the airlines is the unimaginable fall in the value of the Naira compared to foreign currencies.
Though there are many other issues hindering the profitability of the domestic carriers, the most challenging of them is the high price of aviation fuel and the unstable foreign exchange.
A litre of aviation fuel which was sold for N200 in January this year has risen to between N714 and N817 depending on the marketer which has as expected led to rise in air fares across the routes.
Prior to now, a one-hour flight that used to cost between N18,000 and N25,000 has suddenly risen to between N50,000 and N100,000 depending on the airline and the booking time.
To worsen the situation, the wide gap between the Naira and dollar has remained the major albatross to the airlines as most of their transactions are done in dollar and other foreign currencies. It is therefore, no rocket science to realise that hardly will any airline survive in the midst of this hostile economic environment.
Presently, among the functional airlines in Nigeria namely; Ibom Air, Dana Air, Air Peace, Arik, Aero Contractors, Azman, Max, Green Africa, United airlines and Overland Airways, only five or six fall into the category of functional airlines while others are operating on one leg in the face of the overwhelming challenges.
From all indications, two or three of the functional airlines are moving very close to shutting down operations in view of the challenges.
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Agreed that the issue of the hike in the price of aviation fuel has become a global one as airlines across the world are all lamenting the problem as witnessed at the just ended 2022 Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) in Doha where the airlines raised alarm about how prices of aviation fuel has been increasing even faster than crude oil.
According to the airlines, the price of aviation fuel had increased by 50 per cent between February and now which they attributed to the subsequent increase in fares.
Since the issue of expensive aviation fuel is a global one and coupled with the fact that governments across the world are working with aviation bodies to address the menace, the time has equally come for the Nigerian government to key into this as this would save the country and its air traveling citizens the rigour of considering other means of transportation especially road at a time the country is facing rising cases of insecurity.
It would not be too much for government to revive the refineries that used to produce jet A1 which folded up many years ago.
If government had focused on the issues of expensive aviation fuel and the non availability of forex, the airlines would have been greatly relieved while air fares would not have become this unbearable to passengers.
At the rate things are going, if government fails to intervene, there may be no domestic airline business sooner than later.