FREEPRESS – The current spike in the exchange rate of the dollar to the naira may be taking its toll on the country’s foreign-exchange-dependent aviation sector as airline operators seek to increase their fares by 45 per cent.
The dollar exchange rate, which currently stands at N350, according to the airline operators, has further pushed the cost of running the business beyond them.
Some operators said that their plight was not helped by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) disapproval of a new air fare regime that should have officially gone up by 45 per cent, to keep pace with the dollar rate.
Some airlines, however, appear to have resorted to self-help in raising ticket prices for over-the-counter purchase.
The act, which is described as a sharp practice by NCAA’s rules, has seen some tickets gone up by N10, 000 to N20, 000, depending on the airline and the time of purchase.
An operator, who is also a leading member of the Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON), said on the condition of anonymity that the current fare regime, in relation to foreign exchange, was not realistic.
He said: “The current rate is killing our business and it seems our regulators don’t care if we go into extinction. The truth is that this sector cannot survive under the current realities. You cannot do anything without the dollar, which is not in anyway favourable.”
The operator added that several planes were either due for checks or had been sent for the same purpose overseas but still could not be returned due to the further high cost of service caused by the forex spike.
It would be recalled that the aviation fuel scarcity that almost grounded operations nationwide last week was due to oil marketers’ staunch refusal to import the product, otherwise called Jet-A1, into the country at an exchange rate higher than N300.
The situation had to be salvaged by the Federal Government’s intervention that availed forex to the importers at an interbank rate.
On the heels of the scarcity and attendant hardship on air travellers, it was observed that rates, which normally range between N18, 000 and N23, 000 for economy class across the airlines, went up to about N30, 000 to N39, 800. The price is subject to the time of purchase and airline of choice.
Some operators have, however, openly supported the hike. A former manager of the defunct Chanchangi Airlines, Mohammed Tukur, at the weekend said that the airline operators had been boxed to a corner by the current harsh economic condition, and left with no choice than to raise fares.