The Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) have issued a stark warning, declaring the industry is on the brink of collapse, attributing the looming catastrophe to a myriad of challenges ranging from foreign exchange shortages to soaring fuel prices and the formidable hurdles in aircraft acquisition due to country risk factors.
Obiora Okonkwo (Professor), spokesperson for the Airline Operators of Nigeria and Chairman of United Nigeria Airlines, explained the seriousness of the situation during a recent press briefing.
He emphasised the urgent need for government intervention to avert the impending crisis that threatens to engulf the entire aviation sector.
“We are facing existential threats due to the scarcity of foreign exchange, exorbitant aviation fuel prices, and the daunting task of acquiring and maintaining aircraft amidst country risk factors,” Okonkwo lamented, highlighting the dire consequences of grounded aircraft awaiting maintenance, exacerbating the depletion of vital equipment necessary for domestic services.
The pernicious combination of unstable foreign exchange rates and escalating fuel costs, currently at N1,300 per litre, has plunged airlines into a vortex of uncertainty, rendering long-term planning futile and sowing the seeds of financial instability.
Okonkwo explained the plight of passengers who purchased tickets in advance, now burdened with surging costs due to prevailing economic conditions.
“We are making losses on factors beyond our control,” he lamented, underscoring the ripple effects permeating the entire aviation ecosystem, with service providers and airports escalating fees and charges, further burdening the troubled carriers.
The dwindling passenger traffic, made worse by economic uncertainties and shifting consumer priorities, has compounded airlines’ woes, with seasonal fluctuations worsening already frustrated financial positions.
The reluctance of passengers to embark on discretionary travel, opting instead for financial transactions, underscores how bad the situation has deteriorated to.
In a fervent appeal to the government, Okonkwo implored authorities to comprehend the gravity of the situation and intervene decisively to salvage the industry from the brink of collapse.
Urgent measures, including special allocations of foreign exchange and regulatory support, are imperative to avert a catastrophic collapse and safeguard the future of the aviation industry.
In the face of mounting challenges and soaring borrowing costs, airlines confront an existential crisis, compelling stakeholders to rally behind concerted efforts to stave off impending doom and chart a course towards sustainable recovery.