The aviation sector suffered setbacks due to the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, as the lockdown affected by many countries led to travel restrictions, reduced revenue and mass loss of jobs.
In the case of Nigeria, operators in the sector felt the impact of the pandemic more than their counterparts, as ‘old illness’ suffered by the airlines was exacerbated by the pandemic and left the operators writhing in pains.
For the sector to survive in 2021 – in the heat of the second wave of the pandemic, stakeholders shared their expectations and factors that must be addressed by the federal government to aid the rebound of the sector.
They listed stable exchange rate, reduction of cost of operations, waivers on Customs tariffs for aircraft and spares and cost of aircraft insurance, a reversal of 25% remittance of earnings, amongst others.
In an interview with the Managing Director, Aero Mainstream Cargo Services, Ajibade Adewale, explained that the unstable exchange rate, especially for aviation stakeholders, has been a clog in the wheel of operations of the airlines, and most of them cannot afford to inflate their charges in line with the unstable rate.
“Operations of the airlines are largely dollar-denominated. Operations like aircraft purchase plus maintenance and training of staff amongst others can only be done in dollars. The only thing they do in local currency would be salaried.
“Either airlines are allowed to access stable rates or the federal government creates an enabling environment for aircrafts maintenance or repairs here.
“The rubber industry should be revived for investors to set up tyre manufacturing factories in Nigeria, in order to stop importing aircrafts tyres from other parts of the world. Most of the aircraft tyres are manufactured and imported from the United Kingdom (Dunlop), France (Michelin), United States of America (Goodyear), and Bridgestone (Japan).”He insisted that if the enabling environment is created by the government, some of these companies will return to Nigeria and this will reduce the cost of maintenance for the airlines.