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Private Jet Charter Services Gears Up for Big Business in 2023 

Private Jet Charter Services Gears Up for Big Business in 2023 

Chinedu Eze

It is estimated that politicians may spend over $500 million on aircraft charter services for the 2023 election when the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) gives a go ahead for electioneering campaigns.

That is half of what was projected that All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) would spend during the campaigns for the 2019 election, put at $243 million.

Political observers say that campaign for 2023 elections would be rife and demanding because more Nigerians have shown interest in election, as suffering has pushed the people to determine who becomes their president in 2023.

Politicians know that more is at stake and for them to win, and they must spike their campaigns and move to the nooks and crannies of the country to sensitise the people and persuade electorates to vote for them.

During the 2019 election campaigns, patronage to charter service was low compared to 2015 election because Buhari incumbency reduced the fire in the opponents, knowing the power of incumbency in African democracy. 

Findings then showed that available aircraft for charter in Nigeria reduced from about 230 before 2015, to about 150.

According to sources involved in charter operations, the 150 in addition to few privately owned aircraft were even more than the demand by the political parties because of the low-key campaigns.

But the normal cost of charter service prices four years ago was from $4,500 to $7000 per hour. This means that each aircraft makes an average of 90 operations in a month at an estimated cost of $6000 per trip.

Details show King Air 350i makes $4,500 per hour; Hawker 800XP: $5,500 per hour; Challenger 604: $6,500 per hour and Gulfstream GIV: $7,000 per hour.

These prices had changed significantly from the last four years and this was attributed to the realities of the economy, the high cost of aviation fuel, the high insurance premium and the fact that aircraft available may not meet the demand during the campaigns; although it is estimated that the number of private jets in Nigeria has increased to over 200, including the ones acquired by pastors that are likely to be put into use for reward during the campaign period.

However, the Managing Director of Flight and Logistics Solutions Limited, Amos Akpan, who has engaged in charter services for many years, said that there are benefits in politicians engaging in charter services to move around. He said that it would be difficult for politicians to fit their tight timeline to scheduled flight time. 

“In the heat of the campaign season, it is not possible for leaders, lobbyists, and party chieftains to align their meeting times with regular scheduled commercial flights. Leaders share vital last minute changes to presentations while on the trip and this cannot be done in public flight cabins. They need to go into remote cities and mostly at such times that the regular scheduled commercial flights will not do. This means you can choose to land in remote airfield nearest to the venue of your event. Arriving destination in your aircraft with your chosen companions at your own time gives you the best mental shape to handle what you’ve gone for. It gives confidence to travel on your controlled itinerary. Most private jets are fitted with amenities that allow owner/charterer work while enroute,” he said.

On the cost of charter service Akpan noted that users of private jet know that the cost of failure far exceeds the cost of chartering a private jet for that trip, adding that the annual cost of running a private jet is estimated at between N500 million to N2.8 billion depending of type and size.

“During political campaigns, private jets are usually fully booked by party or candidate’s campaign team. They have to deposit money to secure utilization at short notices. The utilization contract is on monthly minimum guaranteed hours of utilization. If you agreed to pay N4.9m per hour for a minimum guaranteed utilization of 120hours per month, you will pay the operator N588m in advance for that month. Whether you utilize 30hours or 120hours in that month or not, you are considered to have consumed as agreed. But if you exceed the 120hours, you’ll be invoiced for the extra hours.

“Most of the redundant airfields will experience increased activities and revenue. They will receive request for special services like night landing and take off (if they have runway lights), extended use of lounges, extended parking times and busy car parks,” Akpan said.

THISDAY learnt that this is also the period when private aircraft owners who registered their aircraft as privately owned engage in illicit charter service along with private jet operators who registered their aircraft as commercial charter. The difference is that while commercial charter operators are subjected to higher safety obligations, pay charges and taxes, private jet owners enjoy waivers and are not subjected to maintenance scrutiny by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA).

But due to the fact that owning and maintaining a private jet costs a lot, some private jet owners engage in chatter services to earn revenue for the maintenance of the aircraft and to pay the crew. Some of them hand them over to chatter managers with fixed base operators (FBOs) and others.

An industry insider who was critical of the illicit activities of the private jet owners that use them for charter once told THISDAY, “In a local parlance, I will say that they are doing kabu-kabu and when they do this they deprive operators who registered their aircraft as commercial charter equipment, business. They don’t pay taxes to government and the insurance they use does not cover charter operation, which means they are not liable if their passengers are involved in accident and their maintenance is not up to standard for commercial aircraft charter, but I wish to note that this did not start today; it has been there for a long time.

But whatever happens, this is boom time for aircraft charter operators.

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