Nigerian domestic airline operators yesterday began a 12 per cent upward adjustment of air fare for a one hour flight amid plans by some of them to begin importation of aviation fuel from some neighbouring countries.
The development is coming at a time operators indicated that they may be forced to halt their services even temporarily if the Federal Government does not urgently address the escalating cost of aviation fuel (otherwise known as Jet- A1).
The cost of aviation fuel which has been deregulated during the military era has continued to be on a steady rise in the past few years. It recently jumped from about N42 per litre to N57.
THISDAY gathered that many airlines whose operations have been hamstrung by the spiralling cost of the product have already concluded plans to begin sourcing it from some neigbouring countries where the cost is believed to be much cheaper.
Although it could not be ascertained how much the product sells in other West African countries, THISDAY learnt that some operators are already looking at Ghana and Cote d'Ivoire as alternative sources.
Chairman of the Airline Operators of Nigeria(AON), the omnibus body for domestic airlines, Dr. Steve Mahonwu, yesterday hinted that it was becoming increasingly difficult to operate in spite of the N1,000 fare increase. He noted that if nothing was done to address the trend, the airlines may withdraw their services.
He debunked insinuations that the current fare increase was purely induced by profit-making motive and added that operators were compelled to embark on the 12 per cent increase to remain afloat.
The AON Chairman noted that astronomical cost of operations, including Jet-A1, landing and parking charges as well as maintenance costs, among others have been having a telling effect on the airlines.
"The recent fuel adjustment and the increase in fare is not for profit-making but just to help stay in business, to be in line and continuing with the provision of employment", the AON Chairman said.
He noted that the airline industry has contributed significantly in the provision of jobs for the population, which he claimed, runs into over a million people. He said "most of the airline operators are just in business to sustain the momentum and not to make profit".
Mahonwu regretted that Nigeria as one of the largest producers of oil in the world could sell petroleum products at exorbitant prices.
"We are poor because those that rule us are mismanaging the economy. Every aviation tariff will continue to increase any time the government decides to increase. We have been talking to the government but no response. We are moving to a situation where all operators in Nigeria will stop oprations for a week", he said.
Meanwhile, all domestic carriers, except Space World Airlines yesterday effected the N1,000 hike in air fare across the country.
All the airline ticketing counters at the domestic wing of the Murtala Muhammed Airport, except Space World Airlines yesterday began the implementation of the N1,000 hike in air fare which was agreed to after an emergency meeting held last week by the operators.
Aero Contractors now charges N12,500 as against N10,500 on the Lagos-Port Harcourt route just as it charges N10,500 for Abuja-Lagos as against N9,500.
Capital Airlines made a surprise hike, increasing its fare on the Lagos-Benin axis from N6,000 to N8,000. Lagos-Kano now attracts N12,200 on Bellview while ADC Airlines maintains its N20,000 fare on the Lagos-Yola route.