Airlines to get waivers on parked aircraft

2020-04-01
THE PUNCH Newspaper- Maureen Ihua-Maduenyi

There are indications that airlines will get waivers for aircraft parked at the various airports in the country.

The Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria charges a certain amount for aircraft parked by airlines outside their base stations.

The PUNCH gathered that due to the coronavirus outbreak, which had forced all domestic airlines and private jet owners to suspend operations for two to three weeks, some charges could be waived.

Following the ban on international travels by the Federal Government and low passenger demand, domestic carriers, beginning from Wednesday last week, had grounded about 76 planes at airports across the country.

Air Peace, Arik Air, Aero, Dana Air, Ibom Air, Max Air, Azman and Overland Airways all had stopped regional operations weeks earlier, citing low demand and concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic.

Air Peace has about 27 aircraft in its fleet and had parked all; Arik Air parked seven planes and Aero parked four planes and three helicopters.

Dana Air also parked nine planes; Max Air parked 14; Azman Air parked five and Overland Airways parked the seven aircraft in its fleet.

Analysts in the industry estimate that the airlines may lose over N150bn in revenue within the two-week period.

The International Air Transport Association, had predicted that the disruption to air travel due to the continued spread of coronavirus would cost Nigeria’s aviation industry over $434m in revenue, 22,200 jobs and approximately 2.2 million passengers.

On March 5, before the total shutdown began, the association, an umbrella body for 290 airlines globally, had projected 853,000 losses in passenger volumes and $170m loss in base revenues in Nigeria, if the spread of COVID-19 continued.

IATA had also appealed to governments in Africa, as part of a worldwide campaign, to provide emergency support for airlines as they fight for survival due to the evaporation of air travel demand as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.

The Director General and Chief Executive Officer of IATA, Alexander de Juniac, said, “Stopping the spread of COVID-19 is the top priority of governments. But they must be aware that the public health emergency has now become a catastrophe for economies and for aviation.

“The scale of the current industry crisis is much worse and far more widespread than 9/11, SARS or the 2008 Global Financial Crisis. Airlines are fighting for survival. Many routes have been suspended in Africa and Middle East and airlines have seen demand fall by as much as 60 per cent on remaining ones. Millions of jobs are at stake. Airlines need urgent government action if they are to emerge from this in a fit state to help the world recover, once COVID-19 is beaten.”

Aviation security expert, Group Capt. John Ojikutu (retd.), said all government agencies in the industry should waive all taxes and levies for domestic airlines at least during the time of the lockdown.

“If there are restrictions to operations from the government, there must be considerations for concessions on services,” he stated.

Another aviation analyst, Olumide Ohunayo, said waivers should be extended beyond the period of flight suspension.

According to him, all charges should not only be waived but also reviewed not just now but after the COVID-19 crisis.

He said, “Before the COVID-19 crisis, passenger demand had fallen and the airlines were struggling to keep the economy afloat.

“I think the waivers should be looked at by the government beyond the period of this crisis. It should also be dependent on whatever packages being provided or considered by the Federal Government and other financial institutions or it should be in addition to what is being considered.”

Ohunayo said many of the domestic airlines would be in debt after the crisis, adding that some had leased aircraft.

“Some of these aircraft are not owned but leased and fees are still running, which is another troubling issue that the government cannot help with because it is often a business to business arrangement. But the government can help with waivers,” he said.

According to Ohunayo, with the crisis in the economy, airlines can disappear completely from the country’s airspace if they don’t get help.

 

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