Airline Operators Seek Dedicated Forex Support Line, Bemoan Jet-A1 Racketeering

Domestic airline operators, under the aegies of Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON), have called on the federal government to provide a dedicated support line for them to have an unhindered access to foreign exchange (forex).

The operators, during their first meeting with Aviation and Aerospace minister, Festus Keyamo in Abuja, also urged government to find solution to aviation fuel racketeering, saying they are paying above the real cost.

They said the burden is being transferred to passengers. The operators maintained that they constantly have to buy aviation fuel, carry out maintenance and overhaul their aircraft in dollars, adding that the issue requires urgent attention.

Speaking on the matter, public relations officer of the association, Prof. Obiora Okonkwo said, ‘All over the world, no matter what their local currency is, even if it’s pound sterling or Yen, it’s dollar. Our concern is that we do not have access to that.

The Minister expressed readiness to address some challenges of lack of favourable government policies.

Mr. Roland Iyayi, who was also at the meeting noted that for instance, when airline leases an aircraft, it pays heavy money in forex to maintain it, adding that it retards the economy.

“It’s like a vicious cycle, you are paying even much more in forex to keep them going, because you are not employing people, you are coming in with crew and everything else, so it’s not helping the economy in the longer term.  It is cheaper to source and find the forex than it is for us to do what we are doing to sustain the operations. So, we are asking that for this particular one, can we have a situation where government will provide a dedicated line for domestic airline operators.?

Okonkwo asked government to bring culprits behind fuel racketeering to book. “Government should look inwards, and find out the culprits and those who are responsible for the racketeering, the value we are buying Jet-A1 is not the real value in the market. There are so many mark-ups, and at the end of the day, the customers and the flying public bear the cost.”

On delayed flights, Chairman of AIr Peace, Barrister Allen Onyema also decried ticket racketeering among touts and involvement of third party in ticket purchase as they hamper communication between the airline and passengers in the event of rescheduling.

” All Nigerian airlines have these apps, once we delay flights or reschedule, it’s just a push of the buton and it will send messages to all passengers, telling them their flights have been delayed or rescheduled. But most passengers in Nigeria buy their tickets using agents, touts or some friends and those people put their numbers, “, he said.

The AON said it is time for government favourable policies to boost the aviation sector. Responding, Keyamo reiterated government’s commitment to supporting the airlines, calling on the operators to also be fair with passengers.

“Create options for Nigerians, fares are too high for our passengers. I know Air Peace is complaining about the London route, for example, the fare to London is too high, Air Peace can rescue us. Please, rescue Nigerians.

“On delayed flights, I want to speak for Nigerians now, you know Nigerians don’t know that there is compensation for delayed flights, if it is an act of God, you cannot pay but if it’s human fault, the Civil Aviation Act says you can pay, for all airlines operators, while I have praised and supported you, you will pay for delayed flights”, Keyamo said.

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