‘How Nigeria’s poor airports killed over 30 airlines in 30 years’

High mortality rate of local airlines was, yesterday, attributed to the decrepit infrastructure and inefficient service delivery at Nigerian airports nationwide.

The airport-factor, stakeholders said, has often been overlooked, yet remains central to airlines’ survival, growth or demise in global aviation.

Former Managing Director of Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Richard Aisuebeogun, at the opening of the Aviation and Cargo Summit (CHINET 21) in Lagos, said the role of airports in airlines’ failure has been more pronounced in the country in the last three decades.

Records at the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) showed that more than 30 operating airlines have closed shops in the last three decades, with only 18 in scheduled and non-scheduled operations to date.

Aisuebeogun said though some failures could not be absolved of mismanagement, corruption, faulty business models and economic factors, the poor viability of 20 out of the 24 airports accounts for low aircraft optimisation and revenue yield for airlines to survive.

He noted that airports and airlines are mutually dependent for survival. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) earlier benchmarked airport viability on five million passengers a year. And that is dependent on population in a region, economy and tourism potential.

However, except for Lagos and Abuja airports, none of the other 22 airports pulls as much traffic yearly to boost revenue of airlines and aviation generally.

He said funding remains the major issue in aviation development. “Our airports are operating at a loss. By 5:00pm or 6:00p.m., they have already closed for the day, which takes the business off the airline. But without optimal services and night operations, airlines cannot survive. That is why the airline mortality rate in this part of the world is staggering.

A panelist at the opening session and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Belujane Konsult, Chris Aligbe, reckoned that both airlines and airport have always operated in silos, earning the operators only 60 per cent aircraft utilisation.

Group Capt. John Ojikutu (retd) said though revenue generated and remittances of FAAN rarely add up, the airlines themselves cannot be absolved from operating the wrong business models.

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