By Solomon Asowata
Domestic airlines in Nigeria lifted a total of 3,287,310 passengers in the first six months of this year, the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports.
The figure, however, represents a 21 per cent decrease, compared to the 4,193,862 passengers airlifted within the period last year.
According to the Consumer Protection Directorate of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), the decrease is due to the current economic hardships in the country, which is affecting air travels adversely.
Records obtained from the NCAA show that only 45 airplanes are currently in active service out of the 74 planes in the fleet of the eight domestic airlines servicing Africa’s most populous nation at present.
The airlines are Aero Contractors, Arik Air, Azman Air, Dana Air, Med-View, Overland, First Nation and Air Peace.
The top three performing domestic airlines in the first half of this year are Air Peace, which leads the performance chart with 6,715 flights, Arik Air 4,069 flights and Dana Air 3,261 flights.
But the flights operated by the airlines also declined by 28 per cent as they were only able to operate 21,662 flights in the first half this year.
The eight airlines collectively operated 30,100 flights within the first six months of 2016, according to NCAA records.
The drop in the number of flights operated by the airlines was not unconnected with the steady depletion of airplanes in the fleet of the airlines.
Commenting on the development, the President of the Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON), Capt. Noggie Meggisson, argued that a safety and economic policy must have to be put in place for the airlines to survive.
He noted that some critical issues also needed to be addressed before the sector could actualise its potential fully.
Meggisson said that some of the issues that needed to be addressed included removal of value-added tax for domestic airlines and a review of the five per cent ticket sales charge to a flat rate.
The AON chief also called for a harmonisation of what he called the over 35 multiple charges that were becoming huge burdens to the airlines.
Meggisson named other problems plaguing the airlines as poor navigational and landing aids that were limiting operations to only daytime at most Nigerian airports.
He similarly, identified high cost and epileptic supply of aviation fuel, Jet A1, saying that the problems were hindering the ease of doing business in the aviation sector.
Also, the President of the Aviation Round Table, Mr Gbenga Olowo, advised the Federal Government to urgently review Nigeria’s Bilateral Air Service Agreements (BASAs), which he said, had granted multiple entry points to foreign airlines.
“The issue of giving multiple destinations to the foreign airlines is not good for the country economically because it is killing our domestic airlines.
“My advice is that the BASAs should be reviewed to stop this open-sky arrangement, where one foreign airline can fly to Abuja, Lagos or any other of our international airports.’’
He also advised the domestic airlines to consolidate to survive the harsh operating environment in Nigeria.
Olowo said that airline operators should stop their cut-throat competition, which according to him, is doing no good to the aviation industry.