Nigeria’s leading Aviation Ground Handling companies; Aviation Handling Services (AHS), Nigerian Aviation Handling Company Plc (Nahco Aviance) and the Skyway Aviation Handling Company (SAHCO) Plc have been urged to consider price adjustment, instead of price increase, in order to survive the effects of the current pandemic, Covid-19. A former Director General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Dr. Harold Demuren, made the call recently during a webinar organized by the Association of Aviation Ground Handlers (AGHAN).
The webinar titled, ‘The Impact of COVID -19 on the Nigerian Aviation Ground Handling Industry: Safety, Rates, Regulation’ was well attended by key players in the aviation industry. Demuren, who was one of the panelists, emphasized that foreign airlines should pay the dollar equivalent for ground handling services rendered to it in order to ensure the survival of the Aviation Ground Handling companies.
In his opening remarks, Chairman of AGHAN, Mr. Olaniyi Adigun, who is also the Executive Director, Sales and Marketing of SAHCO Plc explained that AGHAN was created to represent, advocate policies and regulation for the overall interest of the members of the association. He stated further that the creation of AGHAN will foster an enabling environment to build and reach a consensus on critical aviation ground handling matters.
On his part, the Commissioner/Chief Executive Officer of the Accident Investigation Bureau of Nigeria (AIB), Engineer Akin Olateru, enjoined AGHAN to stop the price war. He encouraged the Aviation Ground Handlers to collaborate more and improve on their service delivery to airlines and other clients. He also said that SAHCO and NAHCO should synergize to get appropriate pricing for the services they provide. He enjoined ground handlers to improve on their service delivery by reducing turnaround time for carriers while also applying new innovation that will break the operational silos from the traditional primary services to innovative secondary and tertiary services.
Mrs. Olatokunbo Fagbemi, Group Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer NAHCO Plc, in her remarks, called on all stakeholders to work together for the survival of the industry, according to her” the aviation industry is the worst hit by the pandemic, and by extension, the ground handling companies’’. She opined that the time has come for stakeholders to fashion out a survival strategy, get the buy in and support of the regulators and above all seek and push for government interventions. According to her, ground handlers should be given national award for its efforts at sustaining the industry. ‘’We are not charging appropriately, even pre-COVID-19. Let’s get what is due to us so we can survive, and we need the help of everybody to grow, we shouldn’t engage in destruction of wealth by the introduction of self-handling, instead, appropriate pricing should be implemented”.
The Director of Air Transport Regulation of NCAA, Group Captain (Rtd) Edem Oyo-Ita who spoke at the webiner said he cannot remember the last time Ground Handlers adjusted their price meanwhile Airlines and other service providers adjust their prices periodically. He enjoined AGHAN to set ground rules and agree on minimum ground handling rates that would be domesticated with NCAA who will in turn monitor and ensure compliance.
On his part, the Managing Director/ CEO of SAHCO Plc, Mr. Basil Agboarumi, said that the aviation industry is one and enjoined ground handlers to be united just like the airlines are and that the best way to go is to collaborate. The birth of AGHAN is a thing of joy and it has come to stay, he emphasized. He however disagreed with the call for self-handling, urging airlines to focus on its primary business of flying. He reiterated that in comparison to other countries, ground handling charges in Nigeria is very low. “For ground handlers to provide safe, speedy and efficient services there is need for the right pricing. It is wrong for Nigeria to charge naira to service a foreign airline; the time has come for right pricing so that ground handlers can survive’’.
Speaking also, the Deputy Chairman of AGHAN, and Chief Operations Officer of NAHCO Plc, Mr. Herbert Odika, in his closing remarks said the coming of AGHAN is a major milestone that will change the face of ground handling in Nigeria. He appealed to the regulators and the government to provide an enabling environment for all operators at the various airports across the nation by improving on the facilities to reduce overhead cost and make business more attractive. Specifically, he proposed the creation of a base-rate for handling, and urged that safety should never be compromised.