Arik Identifies Challenges of Air Transport, Marks 10th Anniversary

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Chinedu Eze

Nigeria’s major carrier, Arik Air has said high cost and scarcity of aviation fuel, inability to access FX are the major setbacks to its operation in Nigeria as it turned 10 years.

The Managing Director of the airline, Chris Ndulue explained that its daily demand of aviation fuel, known as Jet A1 is about 500, 000 litres and this is difficult to source due to the fact that the product is imported and urged government to do whatever is possible to refine the product locally.

Ndulue said the high demand for the dollar by the aviation industry is partly because aviation fuel is imported, adding that because Jet A1 contributes about 40 percent of the cost of airline operation, when the product is refined locally it would reduce the pressure on dollar demand and also reduce the cost of operation.

“Last one year has been challenging for the airline industry and for the nation’s economy. But it is more pervasive in the aviation industry because it is dollar dependent. 40 percent of operation cost is spent on fuel because it is import dependent and while the cost of fuel is low elsewhere because of the general low price of oil in the world, it is high in Nigeria. We urge government to do something about this,” Ndulue said.

He said that the airline intends to expand its operation farther in West and Central Africa, in Asia, including Middle East and South America, but noted that the airline is cautious about expansion because of the recession, so it would approach the programme cautiously.

“Next phase of our growth will be dependent on intercontinental routes and expansion in West and Central Africa. We will announce this later. We have to have a cautious approach to expansion because of the realities of the recession. Part of the impact of the recession is that expansion has to slow down, so we approach it with caution,” he said.

The Arik Air Managing Director said that safety and security are the hallmark of the airline’s operation and that it would continue to maintain the high standard into the future, adding that the airline’s fleet would continue to be serviced by Lufthansa Technic.

“We are doing maintenance with Lufthansa Technic and we have some Nigerians who are under training with them but we are partnering with the company over a long period. We still have subsisting contract with them for the next three years,” Ndulue also said.

In his speech, the Chairman of the company, Joseph Arumemi-Ikhide urged government to support domestic airlines, stressing that if not that Arik and Medview are operating to London the foreign carriers on that route would have blackmailed the Nigerian government by stopping their operation and insisting that government paid them all the monies from ticket sales, which they have not been able to repatriate.

“ I call on government to support all the Nigerian carriers because these are Nigerian businesses that employed Nigerians and if they continue to do well they will continue to employ more Nigerians. The dollar would have risen to N800 per dollar if not for the fact that Mediview and Arik are operating international routes, especially to London. If government encourages more Nigerian airlines to operate international routes it will be good to our economy. So it does not pay Nigeria in any way when it favours foreign carriers to Nigerian airlines,” the Arik Chairman said.