By Prince Okafor

A report has emerged that Nigerian airlines lose about N4.3 billion annually as a result of restriction to operate 24 hours flight to airports of their choice.

The airlines include Aero Contractors (N2), Air Peace (P4), Arik Air (W3), Azman Air, Dana Airlines (9J), Ibom Air (QI), MaxAir (VM), Overland Airways (OF), and United Nigeria Airlines.

The Chief Operating Officer, COO, Ibom Air, Mr. George Uriesi, disclosed this at the 26th annual conference of the League of Airport and Aviation Correspondents, LAAC, in Lagos, with the theme: ‘Sunset Airports: Economic and Safety Implications.’

Uriesi in his paper presentation titled, ‘Maximising Runway Utilisation: A Nigerian Airline Perspective,’ stated that Nigeria’s carriers are losing an average of N4 million per flight, N12 million in every flight, N360 million in 90 flights and N4.3 billion annually on every flight lost to sunset airport

This restriction, Uriesi noted has led to a huge underutilisation of aircraft fleets by the Nigerian airlines as against the global industry standards.

He said: “This is due partly because of too many impediments in the operating environment that limit airline productivity.

“These include limited runway availability across the domestic network, multiple operational infrastructure deficiencies, poor organisation and many others.

“The Federal government needs to prioritise airfield infrastructure and provide the necessary Instrument Landing System (ILS) and accompanying accessories for every airport, while also keeping the aerodromes open to meet the needs of airlines and other users.

“The Federal government also should make current approved master plans a regulatory requirement for every airport and illegalize non-adherence to the master plans by any organisation.

“Establishing a local aircraft lessor and financing vehicle that would allow for the domiciling of aircraft payments in local currency would make a huge difference to the air transport sector in Nigeria,” he added.

In his keynote address, the Director at the Centre for International Advanced and Professional Studies, CIAPS, Prof. Anthony Kila, stated that the aviation industry in the country was bedeviled with myriads of crises, stressing that the high cost of flights and shutting down of airlines signified bad omen for the country.

“There should be a total rethink and resetting of aviation industry by all players while canvassing for the establishment of Bank of Aviation, which would make access to foreign exchange by airlines easier.

“We need to act swiftly and decisively to deal with this situation so that this very bad situation we have at hand does not turn into an unmanageable disaster. Decisive actions in this case will require a total rethink and resetting of the way we conceive and manage our aviation manners.

“There is a prevailing idea in the general public and amongst too many leaders of thought, opinion moulders and indeed policy makers that aviation is a sector that services the elites or the privileged, this is however an anachronistic misconception that needs to be deliberately and assertively corrected.

“Those who know and can need to find the clarity of mind and courage of voice to explain to the rest of the society that in the times we live in and with the size and structure of Nigeria, aviation has become and will remain a basic and essential infrastructure. With such conception in mind, the role of regulators in the sector will be radically modified.”

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