Domestic airlines in Nigeria have decried what they described as “continuous decline in passenger traffic” and rising cost of aviation fuel popularly called Jet A1.
Deputy Station Manager, Azman Air, Mr. Abdullahi Saroke, who spoke to newsmen in Abuja, said that many airlines were currently not having good in the business.
He said the price of fuel had increased by 100 per cent while the patronage had decreased by 30 per cent in recent time and added that the airlines that usually had its seats fully occupied in flight were now struggling to have up to 75 per cent of their seats booked and boarded.
Saroke noted that it has not been easy for most airlines to cope with this situation occasioned by the current recession, including scarcity of dollar and high cost of fuel.
He said “As at January/ February, we were buying fuel at the rate of N115 and N120 per litre but as it stands today, a litre is sold at N220 in Lagos and N230 in Abuja.
“In places like far North such as Yola and Maiduguri, it sold at N250 per litre if you are able to get it.
“This has made it extremely difficult for the airlines to cope but for now, we will continue to manage the situation and fly because you cannot park the aircraft on ground.
“This is because in airline business it is only when you take off and land that you make money.
“What we simply do in Azman is to cancel some flights or try to reduce those frequencies, especially for Mondays and Tuesdays out of Abuja because those are low traffic days.
“So we try to see how we can merge flights to remain afloat to be able to break even,’’ Saroke said.
He said that the situation was also part of the reasons for the suspension of flight by Aero Contractor and the temporal shut down of operation by First Nation airline in September.
He added that if the situation lingered further, it could lead to loss of jobs in the industry, stressing that no airline would continue to pay salaries if they were not making profit, saying no airline can continue to manage its entire work force for too long if the situation persists as they may look for a way to cut cost which may affect jobs in the long run.
While calling on the Federal Government to take urgent steps towards addressing the challenges confronting airlines in the country, especially the domestic ones, Sareko explained that the increase in the cost of ticket by the airlines did not commensurate with cost of operation, saying that the increment was about 30 per cent.
He said that the airlines feared a situation where too much increment in the cost of ticket could drive the bulk of passengers back to road transport.
“The lowest ticket before in any airline was N15, 000 and N16, 000 but now the lowest anyone can get is N22, 000 and N23, 000 if you book ahead.
Another aviation worker said air transport in Nigeria was facing a tough challenge owing to the current economic challenges and maintained that several airlines incurred more cost by the day without flying as result of poor patronage.
Besides, investigations show that many now prefer to travel by commercial flights rather than chattered flights as before the financial crisis.