Stakeholders in the aviation industry have urged the ground handling services to consider price adjustment instead of price increase, in order to survive the effects of the current raging COVID-19 pandemic in Nigeria.
Newsmen reports that the Aviation Ground Handling companies are: Aviation Handling Services (AHS), Nigerian Aviation Handling Company Plc (Nahco Aviance) and the Skyway Aviation Handling Company (SAHCO) Plc.
They made the call at a Webinar Conference organised by the Association of Aviation Ground Handlers (AGHAN) in Lagos on Monday.
The webinar was entitled: “The Impact of COVID-19 on the Nigerian Aviation Ground Handling Industry: Safety, Rates and Regulation.”
Speaking, Mr Akin Olateru, Commissioner, Accident Investigation Bureau of Nigeria (AIB), enjoined AGHAN to stop the price war and focus more on price adjustment in order to survive the effect of COVID-19.
Olateru explained that approximate price adjustment would enable them to provide efficient service to the airlines, and in order to survive the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country.
He appealed to the aviation regulator and the government to provide an enabling environment for ground handlers at the various airports across the nation.
The commissioner encouraged the aviation ground handlers to collaborate more and improve on their service delivery to airlines and other clients.
He said: “I want to enjoin ground handlers to improve on their service delivery by reducing turnaround time for carriers.
“They should also apply new innovation that will break the operational silos from the traditional primary services to innovative secondary and tertiary services.”
The commissioner noted that SAHCO and NAHCO should synergise to get appropriate pricing for the services they provide.
The Director, Air Transport Regulation of NCAA, Retired Group Capt. Edem Oyo-Ita, said he could not remember last time the ground handlers adjusted their price, while airlines and other service providers adjust their prices periodically.
Oyo-Ita enjoined AGHAN to set ground rules and agree on minimum ground handling rates that would be domesticated with NCAA, who would in turn monitor and ensure compliance.
In his opening remarks, the Chairman of AGHAN, Mr Olaniyi Adigun, explained that the association was created to represent, advocate policies and regulation for the overall interest of members of the association.
Adigun, also the Executive Director, Sales and Marketing of SAHCO, said that the creation of AGHAN would foster an enabling environment to build and reach a consensus on critical aviation ground handling matters.
Also, Dr Harold Demuren, a former Director-General, Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), said foreign airlines should pay the dollar equivalent for ground handling services rendered to it.
Demuren noted that this was to ensure survival of the aviation ground handling companies in the country.
Commenting, Mrs Olatokunbo Fagbemi, Group Managing Director, NAHCO, called on all stakeholders to work together for the survival of the industry.
Fagbemi said that the time had 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.
She said: “The aviation industry is the worst hit by the pandemic, and by extension, the ground handling companies.
“Ground handlers should be given national award for their efforts at sustaining the industry. We are not charging appropriately, even pre-COVID-19.
“Let us 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.”
On his part, the Managing Director, SAHCO, Mr Basil Agboarumi, said the aviation industry was one, and enjoined ground handlers to emulate the unity of airlines.
Agboarumi, however, disagreed with the call for self-handling, urging airlines to focus on its primary business of flying.
He said in comparison with other countries, ground handling charges in Nigeria was 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’’.
In his remarks, the Deputy Chairman, AGHAN, Mr Herbert Odika, said the coming of the association was a major milestone that would change the face of ground handling in the country.
Odika, and Chief Operations Officer of NAHCO Plc, said government should improve on the airport facilities to reduce overhead cost and make business more attractive.
Odika specifically proposed the creation of a base-rate for handling, and urged that safety should never be compromised.