This is not the best of times for Overland Airways, one of the three commercial airlines operating at the Ilorin International Airport as it records low passengers in recent time.
Inspite of the high volume of passengers travelling by air to and fro the state capital (Ilorin), Pilot Aviation observed that the airline now has its aircraft parked at the airport.
Speaking on the development, a reliable source at the airport told our reporter that the airline now struggle to meet up with scheduled flight.
” The airline that used to have all its seats fully booked before is now struggling to have up to 75 per cent of its seats booked.
“It’s not easy to start flying two to three passengers to Abuja from here considering the high cost of Jet A1, ” the source explained.
Meanwhile, an aviation expert has lamented high cost of fuel in the country, stressing that the situation is making some airlines to shut down operations.
Speaking to this medium at the Ilorin International Airport on Thursday, Mr. Mandu Ekenne Azu, said the situation has made it extremely difficult for the airlines to cope.
“We will continue to manage the situation and fly because you cannot park the aircraft on ground. This is because in airline business it is only when you take off and land that you make money.
“What we simply do is to cancel some flights or try to reduce those frequencies, especially for Mondays and Tuesdays out of Abuja because those are low traffic days.
“So we try to see how we can merge flights to remain afloat to be able to break even,” Azu said.
He said that the situation was also part of the reasons for the suspension of flight by Aero Contractor and the temporal shut down of operation by First Nation airline last year September.
He added that if the situation lingered further, it could lead to loss of jobs in the industry, stressing that no airline would continue to pay salaries if they were not making profit.
According to the manager, no airline can continue to manage its entire work force for too long if the situation persists as they may look for a way to cut cost which may affect jobs in the long run.
He urged the Federal Government to take urgent steps towards addressing the challenges confronting airlines in the country, especially the domestic ones.
The expert explained that the increase in the cost of ticket by the airlines did not commensurate with cost of operation, saying that the increment was about 30 per cent.
He said that the airlines feared a situation where too much increment in the cost of ticket could drive the bulk of passengers back to road transport.
“The lowest ticket before in any airline was N15, 000 and N16, 000 but now the lowest anyone can get is N22, 000 and N23, 000 if you book ahead.
According to him, the air transport in Nigeria is facing a tough challenge owing to the current economic challenges.
He explained that many of their clients now preferred to travel by commercial flights to save cost instead of travelling by charter flight.
He added that the nation’s aviation sector has been facing challenges which range from scarcity of foreign currency to fuel scarcity and the cost of the fuel.
International airlines had recently decried difficulty in operating profitably in Nigeria due to their inability to repatriate their funds.