Emma Okonji and Nosa Alekhuogie
Following the hike in aviation fuel and the increase in the cost of operations, airline operators are of the view that an hour local flight within Nigeria could rise to N250, 000 anytime soon.
Spokesperson for Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON)and Chairman of United Nigeria Airlines, Obiora Okonkwo, said this yesterday, while speaking as a guest on the ‘Morning Show’ on ARISE NEWS Channel, the broadcast arm of THISDAY Newspapers.
According to him, the increase in cost of operations, could lead to an increase in air ticket, such that air passengers would pay as much as N250, 000 for air ticket from Lagos to Abuja.
“If you think tickets are expensive, then you probably don’t appreciate the sacrifices made by local operators. If we have to charge the fares, the way the costs are increasing every day, we should be paying not less than N250,000 from Lagos to Abuja,” Okonkwo said.
He stressed the need for local airlines to access foreign exchange through a designated window facilitated by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
He also called on the newly appointed Aviation Minister, Festus Keyamo, to collaborate with other governmental bodies to identify and rectify obstructive elements within the system, which a cording to him, is adding to the existing challenges.
Addressing the foreign exchange challenge, Okonkwo said: “You have naira and you can’t convert it to dollar. So, the solution to this is for our minister to understand that we need a special window with the CBN to access foreign exchange.”
He expressed concern over the unjustifiably high cost of aviation fuel, attributing the excess charges to speculative practices. He called on the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPC) to rise above board to stabilise the industry.
Recognising the significance of the aviation sector, Okonkwo advocated for its acknowledgement as an essential industry within Nigeria. He cautioned against any interference with the existing regulatory framework, stressing that stability and consistency were paramount. He urged the government and the new aviation minister to recognise the aviation industry as one of the essential industries in the country.
Okonkwo highlighted the currency disparity that local operators grapple with. He said earnings in naira must cover significant dollar-denominated expenses, making the industry particularly vulnerable to currency fluctuations. He therefore urged the minister not to tamper with the existing regulations and institutional structures. “The current minister should not interfere with the regulations. We had a very terrible past where the regulatory employees were given employment letters from the Federal Ministry of Aviation. That’s absurd and unacceptable,” Okonkwo said.