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By Dennis Agbo

The Chairman of United Nigeria Airline, Dr. Obiora Okonkwo has said that going by the operational cost of the airlines, the cost of air tickets is still very rational if the operators must remain in the aviation industry.

Okonkwo however said that if the operational cost reduces, such as a reduction in the foreign exchange, there would be an obvious translation to downwards cost of the air tickets.

Okonkwo made the remark while fielding questions from newsmen at the opening ceremony of the UNA 2022 management Retreat, aimed at positioning the airline for growth in Enugu, on Tuesday

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According to Okonkwo: “No ticket fare is determined because of where one is coming from, it’s a matter of a season and the other exigencies. For instance during the Christmas period, moving down east has higher traffic, and going back to South West, Lagos or Abuja have almost zero traffic. So if you have to operate and carry the passengers, you have to cover the cost either way.

“It’s even the same thing with the road transporters, you can see a fully loaded luxurious bus from Lagos to Onitsha during the Christmas period and goes back to Lagos with zero passengers. There is a cost of operating this and somebody has to bear the burden.

“In February 2021 when we started our operations, the cost of aviation fuel was N160 per liter, but as at today, less than one year ago, it was N360 per liter. Aviation fuel is about 30 to 35 percent cost of operation, yet ticket fares have not doubled because we still sell tickets at the same rate we were selling last year when the fuel was N160.

“So for that reason, the operators have been doing whatever they can even to manage the cost of the ticket so that they will not be out of affordability of the average Nigeria, but they are bearing the losses. And you also know that for an aircraft to be serviceable, there is a whole lot of challenge in the spare parts. Some of these spare parts, whether they are good or bad, there is regulation that requires you to change them at a certain period. For you to change them, 99.9 percent of these spare parts are imported because we don’t have their equivalents here in Nigeria.

“So, knowing that foreign exchange is high, all these things put together are things that determine the operational cost. Operational cost obviously determines the cost of the service charge, but I can tell you that within this period, from what the people are paying for the air ticket it is still very, very rational but I can assure them that if there is any system, government policy, that will make it possible for certain cost to be reduced somewhere for the operators the benefit must be transferred to the clients.”

Okonkwo stated that the retreat was to provide solutions to challenges, strategize for better service and to appreciate both the staff and customers of the airline after one year of operation. 

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