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Nigerian airlines lament exorbitant levies paid to fly West African routes

Nigerian airlines operating commercial flights within West Africa are alleging that they are levied exorbitant charges by countries in the sub region who seek to frustrate their operations and boost the profitability of their local carriers.

According to CEOs of two of Nigeria’s foremost airlines flying the routes (Medview and Air Peace), some West African countries are deliberately engaging in unfair practices such as the refusal to respond to correspondences with Nigerian airlines seeking to fly into their countries, and the hiking of charges at their airports against Nigerian carriers. These practices, Nigerian airlines say, negate the law of reciprocity governing inter-state trade relations in the sub-continent.

The Managing Director/CEO of Medview Airlines, Mr Muneer Bankole, and Chairman/CEO of Air Peace Airlines, Mr Allen Onyema, who spoke at the 2018 annual conference of the League of Airports and Aviation Correspondent (LAAC) held in Lagos, demanded that the Nigerian government wade into the matter in order to protect the operations of Nigerian airlines. Bankole specifically alleged that the major culprits in this unfair practices are French-speaking West African countries.

“Appropriate policy statement regulating double taxation need to be quickly looked into in conjunction with the exorbitant cut-throat charges levied against Nigeria carriers to our various West African routes, particularly the francophone States,” said Bankole, the Medview CEO.

Nigeria is a signatory to the Single Africa Air Transport Market (SAATM), a policy which seeks to promote unhindered operations of commercial flights among member states in a bid to encourage inter-state trade and commerce.

Onyema, the Air Peace CEO however said the policy (which allows carriers in the sub-continent to fly into multiple routes in Nigeria as opposed to one single point of entry) was detrimental to Nigeria and its airlines.

At the LAAC Conference, Onyema alleged that the government’s of Togo and Cote d’Ivoire had deliberately frustrated Air Peace from flying into their country to reciprocate the frequencies granted to ASKY of Togo and Air Cote d’Ivoire.

“In fact, Togo wrote to us to inform us that they won’t allow Air Peace to come. In Abidjan, they told us that to come to Cote d’Ivoire we will pay $10,000 as charges,” Onyema alleged.

Onyema said airlines from West African states pay only a fraction of what Nigerian airlines pay as charges in neighbouring countries.

Notable levies decried by Nigerian airlines as being exorbitant include landing and take-off charges for aircraft and ground handling charges. These charges lead to the overbloating of the overhead of Nigerian airlines and stifles their ability to break even.

An airline official explained that by the time a Nigerian airline pays charges of up to $10,000 to a country whose airline lands in Nigeria and pays about $1,000, the Nigerian airline is already running at a loss.

“If the Nigerian airline want to increase its airfare to match the exorbitant charges paid to fly into some West African states, no one will fly with you, passengers will all go to the other airline whose fares are low and their charges are also low. It is in this that the Nigerian airlines are losing massively in their West African operations,” Onyema, the Air Peace CEO said.

“I can tell you that Air Peace had lost N1.2 billion in the last one year flying to countries in the West Coast of Africa due to exorbitant charges,” added Onyema.

The Nigerian carriers recommend that the Nigerian government reciprocate these exorbitant charges to serve as a deterrent and protect its domestic airlines operating West

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