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Airlines lost over $60m to bird strikes in one year

Beautiful vintage aircraft

Domestic airlines lost $60 million to bird strikes last year, their umbrella body, Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON), said yesterday.

The association, which held its Annual General Meeting (AGM) yesterday, lamented the impact of the migratory birds’ attacks on local carriers in 2021.

It also said that the operators lost over N20 billion to delays, cancellations of flights as well as refunds to passengers for unutilised flight tickets.


Spokesman for the local carriers, Air Peace Chairman and AON Vice President Allen Onyema described the airline operation as a business precariously hanging on the cliff.


According to him, operators have been finding it difficult to recoup their investments in a hostile operating environment.

The AON called on the Federal Government to review the multiple entry points granted foreign carriers into Nigeria, saying if the trend was left unchecked, local carriers operators may be forced out of business.

Describing the multiple entry point granted Ethiopian Airlines and Qatar Airways into Nigeria as unpatriotic, Onyema called on the government to consider ways and means of empowering local carriers to reciprocate their bilateral air service agreement.

He urged the government to assist the local players by creating an enabling environment to access low interest loans and other interventions.

According to the Air Peace boss, local carriers were overburdened with multiple charges, taxes and other headaches that would make it difficult for them to run profitable operations.

He debunked claims that operators colluded to jerk air fares by over 64 per cent, clarifying that the much-touted N50, 000 base fares was not a collective decision but a resolve by individual carrier to fix fares that aligns with its operational cost. 

Onyema said there was nothing unusual about the N50,000 fares because carriers in the last few years have been grappling with increasing costs of operations propelled by over 1000 per cent rise in the cost of aviation fuel; 300 increase hike in ground handling charges and fluctuations in exchange rate.

He clarified that the price of aviation fuel (JET A1), has gone up from N190 to above N430 per litre in the last one year.

Onyema said: “As a group we object to multiple entry designations granted to foreign carriers namely Ethiopian Airlines and Qatar Airways.

“If the government does not put an end to that policy, the continuous foray of such carriers into Nigerian cities will stall the growth of Nigerian aviation.

“Besides its role in deepening capital flight, it would worsen the precarious situation faced by domestic carriers, lead to loss of jobs and ultimately closing of shops.

“Nigerian carriers are faced with other challenges. The government needs to look into the challenges of availability and pricing of aviation fuel. Airlines are groaning under the yoke of having access to the official window for foreign exchange.”

On the issue of flight delays and cancellations, Onyema said the carriers were not major contributors to the problem, urging the government to urgently fix inadequate airport and air navigation infrastructure, which impacts negatively on airline scheduling.

He said: “No Nigerian carrier would enjoy either delay or cancel any flight, it is far beyond our control. In fact, it has reduced our safety rating in the international community.

“But, factors including weather, air traffic control flow, inadequate equipment by aviation handling companies and other factors extraneous to airline operations are hugely responsible for delays and cancellation of flights.

“Sadly, Nigerian carriers are being demonised and this is affecting our global safety rating. Worse still, passengers are now emboldened to attack our facilities and personnel at the airport. This rate of attacks is becoming unacceptable.”

A bird strike—sometimes called birdstrike, bird ingestion, bird hit, or bird aircraft strike hazard —is a collision between an airborne animal and a moving vehicle, usually an aircraft. The term is also used for bird deaths resulting from collisions with structures such as power lines, towers and wind turbines.

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