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The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the aviation industry globally has been enormous, with job cuts, bankruptcy and revenue losses hanging over each operator in the aviation value chain like a malevolent spectre.
In Nigeria, the impact has been equally hard-hitting. The Africa Regional Director of the International Air Transport Association, Funke Adeyemi, said the industry in Nigeria alone has so far lost $700m to the COVID-19 pandemic.
But one aspect of the loss that has enjoyed less focus is the burden that would be carried by airline passengers. This is gradually becoming clearer as the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria decided to increase the passenger service charges on domestic flights from the current rate of N1,000(about $2.5) to N2,000 and from $50 to $100 on international flights few days ago.
According to the Chief Executive Officer of Air Peace, Allen Onyema, this translates to a necessary hiking of air fares by airlines.
For Nigerian airlines, like their counterparts in other parts of the world, the solution is bailouts, according to Onyema.
He says that the focus of his company saving jobs.
“Palliatives, bailout, rollout, intervention funds or whatever we call it is necessary. All over the world, the government is giving bailouts funds to their airlines.
“Even the strongest of airlines all over the world asked for this. What bothers us more in Air Peace is the retention of workforce. COVID-19 has brought about immense loss of jobs worldwide. We must begin to think of ways of curbing the losses in Nigeria.”
As Nigeria prepares to reopen up its skies for aviation activities, flight simulations were conducted in the country’s airports over the weekend. The Public Relations Manager, Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, Sam Aderogboye says the next stage of the exercise would be to compare notes with stakeholders in the industry before an announcement of reopening.
The Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19, the NCAA, Federal Ministry of Aviation and other concerned government agencies are expected to give their final position on airports reopening this week.
It goes without saying that the airlines that have been grounded for the period the lockdown have lasted have incurred costs despite non-operations that would need to be offset if their companies were to escape the shackles of debt.
The most obvious but difficult solution to this is to increase airline tickets. For air passengers, this is would be a strain on an already difficult time.