Forex Crunch: Arik Air debunks suspension of Accra-Lagos route
By Friday Nwosu.
Nigeria and West Africa’s biggest carrier Arik Air has debunked media reports that it is jettison the Accra-Lagos route owing to the forex crisis rocking the aviation industry in the country.
The forex crisis has been taking its toll on both domestic and international carriers operating in country’s aviation sector forcing some of them to either suspend their operation to Nigeria or restructure their route operation to the country.
Spokesman for Arik Air, Mr Adebanji Ola said the airlines has no intention of suspending the Accra-Lagos, despite the challenges facing most carriers in the sector.
According to him the airlines had no time granted any press release or announced its departure from the route, saying that the reports in the media are not from Arik.
Also, Arik Air’s Chief Commercial Officer, Suraj Sundaram said the airline is still operating between the Lagos-Accra and Abuja-Accra routes and is not contemplating suspension of flights as claimed by a section of the media.
“We have been consistent since commencing the Accra route in January 2008 and we remain the largest airline on that route offering the largest capacity and choice of flights not only connecting Nigeria to Ghana but also onwards from Ghana to other West African nations”, Sundaram said.
“We will continue to invest in and further expand the Ghanaian market based on the strong support and patronage we have received from the people of Ghana over the past eight years”, Arik Air’s Chief Commercial Officer added.
Atqnews.com had last week hinted of the possible collapse of the Accra-Lagos route following the challenge being experienced by carriers operating on the route.
Subsequently, some Nigerian airlines operating on the Accra-Lagos route have suspended their flight operation due to the forex crisis that is affecting the industry.
A report by Sun newspaper, has it that Aero Contractors and Dana Air have both suspended sched¬uled commercial flight operations between Lagos and Accra, Ghana, owing to the exorbitant foreign exchange (forex) cost.
According to the report, the airlines find it uneconomical to contin¬ue doing business on the route given that charges paid to Ghana’s airport and regulatory agencies by for¬eign airlines flying into the country are done in foreign currencies.
“Most of our passengers are Nigerians and they usu¬ally buy return tickets and pay in naira. But the bulk of the charges we pay in Ghana are in dollars and those charges are so expen¬sive by the time we convert air fares collected in naira to dollars,” said a top offi¬cial of Dana Air.
The official who said he was not authorised to speak, noted that under such conditions, making profit becomes Herculian, unless the airlines decide to raise fares, which in it¬self could only end up in seeing the operators flying half-filled aircraft.
“We all know the crisis associated with access¬ing forex in Nigeria and so I will say that that is a big problem for operators like us on that route. So we had to stop the Lagos to Accra flight temporary. We have taken the aircraft out for C-Check abroad and maybe by the time it returns we can resume,” added the official who pre¬ferred to speak on condi¬tion of anonymity.
Spokesman for Aero, Mr. Simon Tumba, told Daily Sun that the suspension of the La¬gos-Accra route was also temporary. He, however, would not link the deci¬sion to forex scarcity insist¬ing the major reason for the suspension was due to an ongoing restructuring exercise following the air¬line’s takeover by a receiver and a new management.
“We now have a new management in place and it has to decide what we can do and what we cannot do to remain in business; and the temporary suspen¬sion of the Lagos-Accra flight was one of them,” he said.
The decision leaves lim¬ited option to most passen¬gers on that route that fly Dana, Aero Contractors.
They are four Nigerian airlines operating the lu¬crative Lagos-Accra route. Their exit, albeit temporar¬ily, leaves only Arik Air and Med-View Airlines on that route.
Emirates Airlines recently announced that it is suspended its evening daily flight from Lagos, Nigeria by July 1. The airline however stated that it will keep only one daily afternoon flight out of Lagos. Emirates operated a double daily flight out of Lagos for over 5 years. And has been operating in Nigeria for over 10 years. It also had a daily flight out of Abuja.
Emirates is also expected to halt all its evening daily flights to Africa’s most populous nation as the forex crisis takes its toll on the airlines.
Also, A few weeks ago, United Airlines, one of the US carriers operating into Nigeria hinted its customers that it will soon cease flight operations to the country from the 30th of June 2016.
United airlines said the last flight from Houston to Lagos will operate on June 29th, 2016 and Lagos to Houston on June 30th.
Similarly, Iberia Airlines earlier halted its operation to Nigeria due to the forex policy in the country which is affecting foreign carrier.
According to an Aviation Weekly publication “Of the roughly $5bn in trapped ticket sales that IATA says is awaiting repatriation, about $600m is in Nigeria, the most in any country bar Venezuela.
Foreign airlines have struggled to access their Nigerian sales since November last year due to a shortage of dollars in the local banking system caused by depressed oil revenues.