Nigerian Indigenous airlines, Arik Air, Aero Contractors and Dana Air, have suspended scheduled commercial flight operations between Lagos and Accra, Ghana, owing to the exorbitant foreign exchange (forex) cost.
It was learnt that the airlines said they found it uneconomical to continue doing business on the route given that charges paid to Ghana’s airport and regulatory agencies by foreign airlines flying into the country are done in foreign currencies.
“Most of our passengers are Nigerians and they usually 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 expensive by the time we convert air fares collected in naira to dollars,” said a top official 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 itself could only end up in seeing the operators flying half-filled aircraft.
“We all know the crisis associated with accessing 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 preferred to speak on condition of anonymity.
Spokesman for Aero, Mr. Simon Tumba, said on phone that the suspension of the Lagos-Accra route was also temporary. He, however, would not link the decision to forex scarcity insisting the major reason for the suspension was due to an ongoing restructuring exercise following the airline’s takeover by a receiver and Arik Air with 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 suspension of the Lagos-Accra flight was one of them,” he said.
The decision leaves limited option to most passengers on that route that fly Dana, Aero Contractors.
They are Nigeria’s three airlines operating the lucrative Lagos-Accra route. Their exit, albeit temporarily, leaves only Med-View Airlines on that route.
Scarcity of forex has in recent months posed a serious threat to the survival of many businesses in Nigeria, especially those that rely on importation of spares, feedstocks or raw materials as well as those, like airlines, that must do routine maintenance abroad with forex.