NIGERIA: Ground Handlers Rally Airlines to Right Pricing, Dollar Rate

Worried by the operational challenges in the COVID-19 era, ground handlers and stakeholders have rallied airlines to the right pricing mechanism and service payment in dollars.

The operators, at a webinar organised by Association of Aviation Ground Handlers (AGHAN), said right pricing is a better alternative to price adjustment.

A former Director-General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), and a panellist at the session, Dr. Harold Demuren, said it was imperative for foreign airlines to pay the dollar equivalent for ground handling services, to brighten the chances of survival of the industry.

The Director of Air Transport Regulation, NCAA, Group Captain (rtd), Edem Oyo-Ita, said he did not remember the last time ground handlers adjusted their price; meanwhile airlines and other service providers raise prices periodically.

Oyo-Ita enjoined AGHAN to set ground rules and agree on minimum ground handling rates that would be domesticated with NCAA, who will in turn monitor and ensure compliance.

The Commissioner/Chief Executive Officer of the Accident Investigation Bureau of Nigeria (AIB), Akin Olateru, however, enjoined AGHAN to stop the price war, saying it was not in the best interest of any operator.

Olateru encouraged the handlers to collaborate more and improve on their service delivery to airlines and other clients.

He also said that SAHCO and NAHCO should synergise to get appropriate pricing for their services. He enjoined ground handlers to improve on service delivery by reducing turnaround time for carriers, while also applying new innovation that would break the operational silos from the traditional primary services to innovative secondary and tertiary services.

Group Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer NAHCO Plc, Olatokunbo Fagbemi, called on all stakeholders to work together for the survival of the industry, adding that the aviation industry is the worst hit by the pandemic, and by extension, the ground handling companies.

Fagbemi said it was time for stakeholders to fashion out a survival strategy, “get the buy-in and support of the regulators, and above all seek and push for government’s interventions.”

“I think we ground handlers should be given national awards for our efforts at sustaining the industry. We are not charging appropriately, even pre-COVID-19 era. Let’s get what is due to us so we can survive, and we need the help of everybody to grow. We shouldn’t engage in destruction of wealth by the introduction of self-handling. Instead, appropriate pricing should be implemented,” Fagbemi said.

On his part, the Managing Director/CEO of SAHCO Plc, Basil Agboarumi, reiterated that in comparison with other countries, ground handling charges in Nigeria was very low.

“For ground handlers to provide safe, speedy and efficient services, there is a need for the right pricing. It is wrong for Nigeria to charge naira to service a foreign airline; the time has come for right pricing so that ground handlers can survive.”

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