Domestic airlines in Nigeria reel over losses


ABUJA, Nigeria (eTN) – Functional domestic carriers in the country could risk loosing substantial part of their investments valued at more than 800 trillion Nigerian naira (approximately US$6.7 billion) if local aviation authorities hesitate to acquire modern and serviceable navigational aids for majority of the airports that are currently accessed by the airlines.

The carriers who are bracing up to the challenge of replacing their obsolete machines with modern and serviceable aircraft are as it were in dilemma over federal government lackadaisical approach to providing the needed funding for Nigeria ailing aviation sub-sector.

According to local aviation experts that the domestic airline operators’ are bothered by inaccessibility of most of the country’s 22 airports because of unserviceable navigational aids that make flying into these airports a nightmare of sort for pilots.

Nigeria burgeoning airlines had in the wake of last year’s consolidation exercise in the aviation industry commenced a phased replacement of their aged and antiquated aircraft.

Some of the airlines that made unprecedented orders recently include Virgin Nigeria, Arik Air, Aero, Dana Airlines, Chanchangi, Associated Airlines and Belview Airlines.

They are however weary that their investments in aircraft acquisition, information technology and training among others estimated at more than N800 trillion could go down the drain if urgent steps are not taken to equip the airports with functional navigational aids.

Notable banks and lenders who had lend financial support to the airline operators are similarly in quandary over the unimpressive returns on their investments particularly as the industry witness many troubles occasioned by high cost of fuel, low travel and cargo freight since the beginning of the year.

They had hoped government would chart more routes and open up additional airports with functional navigational aids to enable them tap resourcefully into some of the potentially viable routes.

In a related development, the hope of processing flight services into some international routes including America and the United Kingdom especially by designated airlines is also threatened as national aviation authorities are yet to secure certifications that could enable flights originate from Nigeria.

This delay in creating the right atmosphere for the designated carriers according to the experts is above all feared to impact heavily on the airlines’ return on investment. “Can you imagine airline operators in this country keep their aircraft on the ground when they are supposed to be flying and yet pay parking charges on a daily basis? What manner of business is that? An aviation analyst reasoned.

The Nigeria Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) had in the wake of these irregularities ordered the installation of a navigational aid at the Murtala Mohammed Airport Lagos to safeguard incoming and outgoing aircraft from unforeseen circumstances.

The measure is intended as a temporary measure to the stillborn TRACON (Total Radar Coverage of Nigeria) project that ordinarily would have provided total radar coverage for the Lagos and Abuja airports respectively.

The incumbent management of NAMA had inherited a declining infrastructure including communication, navigation and surveillance aids but claimed to be making effort to rejuvenate the obsolete equipment by making them functional.

Manny Philipson is an associate editor with BusinessWorld Newspaper where he anchors the Travel, Aviation and Motoring section of the publication.