From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The Director-General, Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Capt. Musa Nuhu, has blamed the impact of COVID-19 pandemic as being responsible for the 100 percent increase in airfares.
The spike, which operators blamed on an exchange rate that hit N500 to $1 at the black market last week, has seen an average one-hour economy class seat of N33, 000 rise to N75, 000 over the counter of some airlines. Its average return trip variant also climbed to N121, 000 from about N60, 000 a week ago.
According to Nuhu at Thursday’s briefing of the Presidential Taskforce (PTF) on COVID-19, “As regards ticket prices, yes ticket prices have gone up astronomically over the last week or so. That is one of the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The aviation, tourism and travel industry is one of the most devastating industries by COVID-19. Because, we had a short down for several months, the airlines were not making money and there are fixed cost that they have to deal with, they have to maintain the aircraft and unfortunately most of these aircraft are maintained outside the country.
“Two issues we have had, because of the short down they don’t even have slots to take their aircraft out and the dollar rate has gone up and they need to raise enough money.
“So the problem basically is that of supply and demand. The supply for airline seats internationally have significantly gone down while the demand domestically since we opened have gone up. So it’s simple basic economics 101, when the demand exceeds supply, the prices go up.”
On issue of bailout to airlines, he said, “it is a policy matter being handled by federal ministry of aviation under the direction of the Honourable minister of aviation. What I can say about the bailout is that a N5 billion bailout to airlines and other service providers within the industry have been set up. I know a committee was set up to work out the modalities how the bailout will be shared among those who are entitled.I know the committee has finished or about finishing and shortly we should be hearing from the minister.”
On the issue of 300 sacked staff, Nuhu, “Yes there was an issue but the staff were never sacked, there was a threat between one of the airlines and the staff and some disengagement disagreements but however, the NCAA intervened. We spoke with both the management and Labour unions and they have agreed to go back to the discussion table. The last report o received, they have made significant progress in closing that gaps, we hope they conclude and nobody is sacked.”