Harsh economic condition grounds private jet operations 


Abiola Seun

Due to the dwindling economic activities as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic that disrupted countries’ economy around the world, private jets business in the nation’s aviation sector is currently facing significant dip in operation.

This is even as the owners are groaning under huge cost incurred due to inactiveness of the aircraft as a result of  dwindling economic activities in the country.

The sub-sector of the aviation industry, it was learnt, has dipped significantly and that has led to a drastic reduction in the number of private jets presently operating in the country.

However, with lockdowns and inability to use the aircraft since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to rising maintenance costs of about $4 million depending on the nature of the exercise and size of the aircraft and running cost, private jet owners are groaning under the burden of such costs.

Also, with many of those luxury jets not taken to the sky in the last one year, yet racking up heavy billings daily.

For instance, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), records affirmed the slump in general aviation, indicating private jets declined from over 200 in 2015 to about 95 today, out of which only 49 are inactive while 46 are presently active.

Speaking recently, the Chief Operating Officer of the Private Jet Nigeria, Omotade Lepe, had told journalists that the sub-sector has lost between $1 billion to $5 billion to the pandemic, which silenced the erstwhile luxury market.

Lepe said the pandemic period has been the most challenging for operators as the sector suffered revenue loss, decline in flight requests and fixed overhead running.

However, the Chief Executive Officer, West Link Airlines, Akagwu Michael,said the reason for the decline in private jet operations was due to the dwindling economic activities.
According to him, economic boom has always been the driver of private jet operations, saying strict implementation on foreign registered aircraft by regulatory agencies is also contributing to the decline experienced in the sector.

He said, “Private aircraft business is the function of economic activities and we know not much what is happening economically in the country.

“Some businessmen have relocated because the businesses they are doing in Nigeria have dipped and also put their private jet up for sale.

Also, change of management in some banks also contributed because those who do not buy the private jet ideology may be taking over bank management.”

“Thirdly, the policy of NCAA that before you can operate a foreign registered jet in Nigeria, there must be an existing Air Operators Certificate (AOC), from the country of registry.

“This means private jet owners must get authorisation from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), of the jet country of origin that there is no issue or challenges concerning the aircraft so, most private jet owners can’t go through those rigorous procedures,  hence leading to the shrinking experienced in the sub-sector,” he said.

Also speaking, the Chief Operating Officer,  Aglow Aviation Support Services Limited, Tayo Ojuri, attributed decline in the aviation sub-sector to lull in economic activities in the country coupled with the huge cost of operating the aircraft.

He also stated that strict enforcement from the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) and the NCAA are putting more regulatory pressure on the jet owners.

Ojuri, however, expressed optimism that with the 2023 general election approaching and the post Covid-19 pandemic economic recovery plans, the sub-sector will boom again.

His words, “the economy is no more buoyant so, those who wet leased the jet had to return them back to the parent companies.

” This is because the cost of running an aircraft is not cheap because for instance, if you park in an hanger, you pay at least, $27,000 a month. What about insurance? paying crews and even accommodation for the crew and other cost incurred, so paying about $100,000 a month and also you are paying the lease if it is not outright purchase.”
He continued, “so, with or without flying, you are incuring a cost of over $100,000 monthly and looking at the price of crude oil in the international market because those who make use of the private jet are majorly in the oil and gas sector and when oil goes down, no money to fund such type of lifestyle anymore.”

Ojuri also disclosed that with election approaching, there may be a recovery

“The business will pick-up looking at the coming 2023 election as well as the post covid-19 recovery plan, the sector is set for boom,” he posited.

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