Former Senior Special Adviser to the President on Aviation, Capt Shehu Iyal has expressed concern over the challenges the country’s airlines are currently faced with, noting that there is no airline in Nigeria today that can boast of making a profit in any circumstance.
He noted that many of the carriers are at the mercy of so many variables that have hindered their progress.
Chief among the issues is the astronomic increase in the price of jet fuel, the difficulty of getting boarding gates, and other things he said had compounded their problem.
Speaking at the ongoing Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) summit in Abuja, Iyal who is the Managing Director of Afri-Air International Limited, a Fixed Based Operator (FBO) said, “They (airlines) are at the mercy of the availability of Jet A1, if it is there, at what price? They are at the mercy of even getting a boarding gate, there are so many things. In fact, if you run an airline, and you run a business, you will pity them. There is no airline in Nigeria today that can boast of making a profit in any circumstance.”
“So, what the Managing Director of FAAN is saying today is what we should take home. There is an airport in America; they even gave an airline some money to be able to come and fly there so that it can develop it. We are in a very bad situation. I don’t operate an airline but I have friends that operate airlines. In fact, I wonder how they do it.”
To ameliorate the burden on airlines in the country, he proposed that the country should avoid over-taxing or overwhelming the carriers to get into trouble, saying, “They are already in trouble. So the word he used yesterday if you were here, he said what we need for the airline is more sustainability and survival. So, they should survive.”
“Sometimes, those of us that come from Lagos-Abuja, sometimes when I see the sum of these airplanes, I see the load factor, I wonder if they are even able to pay for parking, landing, and fueling”.
He stated that the current reality has forced new entrants into the airline business to devise new modes of operation, small and fuel-efficient aircraft like the CRJs, ATRs’ and other smaller airplanes.
“Now, you are talking about more airlines, but have you noticed something about the more airlines that are coming in? They are coming in with fuel-efficient equipment, the CRJs, and the ATRs. By the time you have 20 or 22 passengers, you have broken even. So I know that Nigeria has not even reached 25% or 30% of aviation growth, there is still room for expansion and we shall get there”.
He applauded the resilience of many airline managers in the country, assuring them that they would get out of the difficult situation.
Iyal charges the Federal Government to come to the aid of the industry, arguing that there are certain areas of assistance the government can render if they are not giving them money directly.
“If you remember what I said, the key thing about aviation today and the airlines, and what Roland Iyayi said, is survival. The airlines and the aviation industry are suffering. The authorities are suffering. If FAAN uses 40% of its revenue and the government takes it, how do they want them to be able to run the agency? So, there is a need to talk to the government. There is a need for the government to realise that aviation is more than business, aviation is a component of national security.”
“So, there is no reason why airports and airlines should have the kind of problems we are having today because aviation is a component of national security. So for whatever reason, we must find a way of helping them to survive and then we talk about sustainability”.