The country’s domestic airlines are mooting an increase in fares. This is premised on the recent increase in the price of aviation fuel. According to the airline operators, a circular informing them of the increase in the price of aviation fuel from N115 per litre to N150 was issued in Lagos last week.
The domestic airline operators told the Minister of State for Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, of their predicament during two meetings on Monday.
The Chairman of the Airline Operators of Nigeria, Captain Noggie Meggison, said the hike in aviation fuel price was in contrast to what was obtainable in other parts of the world where the cost had been falling.
Meggison said: “The pricing of aviation fuel is something that is mind-blowing. “They just endorsed a circular last week in Lagos increasing fuel from N115 to N150.
“The aviation industries worldwide are declaring profits because of the aviation fuel that has come down in their climes. But in Nigeria, the price of aviation fuel is going up. “We are paying N150 per litre and that is why we pray that the minister should please assist us in looking into this matter in order to cut down the bills that will be passed on to the customers.”
Speaking on flight delays and cancellation, Meggison said many airports in Nigeria lacked the capacity to operate in the evening, with most of them shutting down operations by 6.30pm. He cited the Benin airport as an instance. He said the airport had no light on its runways, adding that once it was 6.30pm, it would be practically impossible for flights to land at the facility.
He said: “I must say that 70 per cent of our delays and cancellation of flights during the harmattan and the rainy season are due to issues with navigation aids. “In the last harmattan period, I know that the Calabar airport was closed for about three days because of poor visibility.”
The local airline operators also argued that they should receive greater priority than their foreign counterparts with respect to accessing foreign exchange. They told the minister that accessing forex from the parallel market was highly detrimental to their ventures and stressed that they wanted to access the foreign currency from the Central Bank of Nigeria directly.
In response, Sirika constituted two separate teams made up of himself, ministry officials and members of the AON to dialogue with the CBN and the Nigeria Customs Service over issues of forex and waivers on imported spare parts for the airlines. The minister said he had placed a call to the CBN governor on issues of forex, adding that the government would play its role of creating a level playing field for both domestic and foreign carriers in the sector.
Sirika said Jet-A1 would be made available before the end of the year when some of the refineries would come on stream in full.