THINGS that get our Ministers angry are the very things that benefit Nigerians. Our country appears marked out for Ministers who have missed their mission. The sight of Nigerians accessing any comfort disconcerts them.
Minister of Aviation Mr. Babatunde Omotoba is against promotional fares. He has ruled that low airfares undermine safety. Government, he said, is worried about a situation where airline charge between N5, 000 and N9, 000 for an hourâ€™s journey.
With an analysis of the aviation industry that was bereft of economics of the industry, Mr. Omotoba plunged into his unique logic. â€œLetâ€™s take an airline that advertises N5, 000 fare, with 116 seats. Let us assume the airline gets 100 people to fly. With that, it earns about N500, 000, which is about $3,400 on an hour flight.
â€œAn average aircraft would spend about $2,100 on about 4,000 litres of aviation fuel, which leaves $1,300. The total cost of operating the aircraft including lease and insurance is about $9,000 for every one hour flight.
â€œYou need to leave about $500 reserve for every hour flight for maintenance, which is $9,500. The airline would be losing $8,000 for each one hour flight. I do not know the rationale for these promotional flightsâ€.
It is instructive the Minister confesses his ignorance of the bases of the fare. It is important that he finds out.
Suffice to tell him only a percentage of the tickets are low fare. It is a global practice; our aviation Minister should know. One airline sells low fare tickets only online, but charges between N16, 000 and N25, 000 on one hour flights, depending on when the traveller buys the ticket.
It is important the Minister mentioned aviation fuel, which is costlier in Nigeria than even Ghana. Did government do anything about it? Airlines have discovered a survival strategy by popularising air travel, which hugely benefits from roads governments neglected. Is it Mr. Omotobaâ€™s role to deny airlines the benefits of aviation economics because he does not understand it? Must the people suffer for the Minister to be happy?
Mr. Omotoba missed the point widely when he related safety to fares. Four years ago, when planes were falling off the skies, no airline was charging low fares.
Safety is compromised with ill-equipped airports, dilapidated and poorly lit runways, obsolete radar, emergency services that exist only in name, and Ministers who have no business around aviation, but delight in bearing the title.
Tomes of presidential reports attest to the fact that governmentsâ€™ insincerity in monitoring standards account for most of the accidents in our aviation industry – none of the reports mentioned low fares.
Mr. Omotobaâ€™s advice that airlines should at least charge N20, 000 for one hour flight comes from someone who no longer pays his own bills and does not know the plight of Nigerians, who he is meant to serve.
Higher fares cannot improve safety standards that aptly reflect a countryâ€™s decision to operate without standards.