Lagos — Despite the financial bailout given to airline operators by the federal government to alleviate the impact of COVID-19 on airline operations, air passengers still groan under flight delay and hike in indiscriminate increase in air fare by operators.
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) had earlier disbursed N5 billion out of the N27 billion Aviation Intervention Fund, expected to rescue ailing airliners and reposition the aviation sector in the country.
But, the bailout is yet to bring succour to the passengers who groan under flight delay and pay ridiculous fare to move around the country.
However, stakeholders have noted that the limited number of aircraft in the fleet of airlines had pushed up demands for available seats, hence, necessitating the increase of air tickets and flight delay.
Also, the grounding of some airlines due to regulatory impasse have compounded the problem in the aviation sector.
For instance, on the northern routes, the absence of the major players - AZMAN Air and Medview Air - have reduced the number of carriers and aircrafts on that routes.
Similarly, despite many airliners such as, Arik Air, Aero Contractors, Ibom Air, United Nigeria Airlines, Air Peace, DANA Air and other carriers on the Southern routes, the fares are still high.
A visit to the general aviation terminal of the Muritala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), on Monday showed that passengers were stranded as flight were delayed due to limited airlines.
For instance, an Arik Air 10am flight from Lagos to Port Harcourt was delayed as the aircraft was not onground to move passengers out of Lagos.
On fare hike, a return ticket from Lagos to Abuja on Dana Air pre-Covid-19 was N41,400 but now goes for N120,000 depending on the time.
Also, a return ticket from Uyo to Lagos on Ibom Air which was N56,000 now goes for N130,000 depending on the timing.
Flights in the early hours were usually higher than fares for the afternoon, evening and night flights.
However, the secretary general of the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE), Ocheme Abba, said the bailout is self help to airline operators as it was too meagre to provide succour to any airline.
Speaking exclusively to LEADERSHIP, Ocheme said the bailout by the government has no template but was given as pocket money to the airlines.
He said, "The principal thing is that the bailout is too small. Nothing can be done with the bailout because it is not enough to to drive airlines out of the woods so, to me, it is like a pocket money to airline operators.
"The bailout didn't make any significant difference. The government was not suppose to pay directly to the airline operators. For instance, assuming an opetator needs N1billion and was given N20million, what will he use it to do.
"The government was suppose to check the account books and say use this for maintenance cost or they pay directly to manufacturer if its for spare part importation or maintenance checks.
"The bailout didn't bail anyone out, so no one can be held accountable because its just help, nothing more."