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AVIATION PAGE 24 Airline operators groan over dollar scarcity Stories from Abdullateef Aliyu, Lagos Airline Operators in Nigeria (AON) have expressed concern over difficulty in…


Airline operators groan over dollar scarcity

Stories from Abdullateef Aliyu, Lagos

Airline Operators in Nigeria (AON) have expressed concern over difficulty in accessing dollars for ease of their business.

They said airline operation is virtually dollar based but with the scarcity of the dollar, it has not been easy.

Recently, the operators led by Capt. Noggie Megisson met with the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele to discuss the issue and the need for the CBN to make foreign exchange available to them at the official rate.

A dollar currently exchanges at N197 officially but it has hit N340 at the parallel market.

Accountable Manager of Dana Air, Mr. Obi Mbanuzuo said dollar scarcity had taken a big toll on airlines in Nigeria.

“Whereas we sell our tickets in naira, most of our operations are dollar based”, he told Daily Trust.

An expert who spoke on condition of anonymity gave further insight into the dollar scarcity as it affects the airline.

The expert said, “First Nigeria doesn’t manufacture aeroplanes and we don’t have maintenance hangar, the aircraft are brought in from abroad. Again, an aircraft is expected to be sent out for maintenance every 12 months or at most 18 months, this costs the airline huge amount of foreign currency.

So I really pity the airlines because while they sell their tickets in naira, they do most of their things in dollars.”

Checks by Daily Trust indicate that aircraft maintenance costs a minimum of $150,000 whereas an aircraft is expected to be sent for maintenance (C- check) every 12 months or 18 months.

An industry regulator said, “Another aspect that consumes foreign exchange is training. Most of our trainings are carried out abroad and you need dollar to fund the trainings. This is also responsible for the dearth of experts in the industry because the cost of training is expensive”.

Speaking on the development, Megisson expressed hope that the CBN would come to their aid to ease the operating environment for the airlines.

Medview acquires 463-capacity aircraft

Medview Airline on Tuesday entered into an agreement with Air Atlanta of Iceland for the acquisition of a Boeing 747-400 aircraft.

Under the agreement, Air Atlanta will deliver the 463-capacity aircraft to Medview to increase its fleet ahead of the airline’s plan to open new route.

Specifically, the aircraft will be deployed for Hajj operations and also to support London and Jeddah routes.

Also, the airline has taken delivery of another B737-400, bringing the fleet size to six aircraft. The aircraft is expected to be dedicated to Lagos-Abuja-Maiduguri route.

Already, the airline has been destined for 17 international destinations among them is Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE); Freetown, Sierra Leone, Singapore, among others.

The new agreement was signed at the Med-View Headquarters with the MD/CEO of Medview Airline, Alhaji Muneer Bankole and the Head of Engineering, Lookman Animashaun representing the airline while Director of Sales, Air Altanta Magnus Asgeirsson was in attendance.

Bankole explained that the agreement is a turning point in the 10 year-old partnership with Air Atlanta as both parties have kept faith with the existing relationship, saying they have moved a step further.

In another development, the airline has joined humanitarian efforts for victims of insurgency by donating a trailer load of rice and noodles monthly to Internally Displaced People (IDPs) in Borno. The gesture commenced in January this year.

Arik expands frequency on Lagos-Dakar, other routes

Arik Air on Tuesday said it is increasing its frequency on the Lagos-Dakar (Senegal) route to a daily service up from six weekly flights commencing February 22, 2016.

The new schedule, according to the airline, would operate with four of the Lagos-Dakar flights routed via Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire instead of the previous routing via Banjul.

The other three flights will continue to operate via Accra, Ghana.

Spokesman of the airline, Ola Adebanji said Lagos-Abidjan-Dakar service would operate on Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday while the Lagos-Accra-Dakar service will operate on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

With the new schedule, Arik Air will be able to provide its customers convenient access between Lagos, Abuja, Accra, Abidjan and Dakar markets.

The airline will also be increasing its frequency on the Lagos-Banjul route from three weekly to four weekly flights effective March 14, 2016. All the flights will be operated via Accra using a Boeing 737-700 Next Generation (NG) aircraft.

The Lagos-Accra-Banjul service will be operated on Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Sunday.

Direct flight to Gabon will boost trades with Nigeria-envoy

Gabonese Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. Corentine Hervo-Akendengue has hailed the decision of Arik Air to operate to the Central African nation, saying direct flight from Nigeria to Libreville would boost trade relations between the two countries.

He spoke at the inaugural flight of Libreville from Lagos en-route Port Harcourt at the weekend.

The Ambassador noted that both countries have something in common including the fact that many Nigerians live in Gabon.

Besides, Gabon, being oil producing nation, oil and gas companies in Nigeria have over the years longed for direct connection between Nigeria and Gabon.

He, however, said by introducing a direct flight between the two countries, Arik Air had solved the major problem being faced by corporate organizations and Nigerians who live in Gabon.

Many Nigerians used to spend two days or more to connect either of the countries, but direct flight takes about one and half hours.

Arik Air’s Chief Commercial Officer, Mr. Suraj Sundaram who noted that there has not been any direct flight between the two countries for so many years, said flight connection between the two countries would increase trade ties.

“A lot of Nigerians from the South East travel to Libreville on regular basis and we also have corporations that are dominant in Nigeria which transact business in Gabon because the two countries are oil producing, so there is a lot of traffic between the two points. It is in the interest of the two countries that there should be direct flight services,” Sundaram said.

The flight would be operated three times weekly while the frequencies would be expanded based on demand, he said.

He said the airline planned the flight in a way that there is a late evening departure from Lagos and this enables all domestic flights to come into Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt to make the necessary connections.

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