‘Low Charges for Airlines Handling Services May Compromise Safety’

Chinedu Eze
Stakeholders in Nigeria’s aviation industry have drawn attention to the comparatively low charges by ground handling services, saying it could compromise safety and operational standards.

Industry insiders said the massive drop of ground handling charges from $1,139 to only $400 on a Boeing 737 aircraft (narrow body airplane) or its equivalent on both local and domestic services would drastically affect the companies’ revenue and operational standards.

They noted that the ground handling service rates are the lowest in Africa.
THISDAY learnt that the three ground handling companies; Skyway Aviation Handling Company (SAHCO) Plc, Nigerian Aviation Handling Company (NAHCO) Plc and AHS Aviation Handling Services charge the lowest on the continent, despite having better Ground Support Equipment (GSE) than most of their counterparts in Africa.

THISDAY also learnt that ground handling charges in Guinea, Senegal, Cameroon, Sierra Leone and Ghana for narrow body and wide body aircraft are way ahead of Nigeria.

The narrow body aircraft include B737, Airbus A320, ER 135 and ATR aircraft, while the wide body aircraft are categorised as B767, A330, B777, B747 and A380 aircraft.
For instance, investigation revealed that in Guinea, foreign airlines are charged $1,673 (narrow body); $4,715 (wide body), Senegal; $2,250 and $5,259, Cameroon; $1,400 and $4,500, Sierra Leone; $2,250 and $5,250 and Ghana with $1,500 and $4,150 for passenger flight.

Cargo flight attracts $2,300, $1,750, $2,300, and $2,500 in Senegal, Cameroon, Sierra Leone, Ghana, respectively for narrow body aircraft, while for wide body aircraft, the ground handling in those countries charge between $4,450 and $5,250 per flight.

A source told THISDAY that while the above named countries charge the airlines appropriate rates, a narrow body aircraft attracts about $1,000 ground handling charges in Nigeria, while a wide body aircraft goes as low as $3,000 for passenger flight.
At times, it was gathered that the $1,000 ground handling rates could be as low as $400, depending on the negotiating power by such a foreign airline.

For cargo flight, airlines pay as low as $1,300 and $3,850 for narrow and wide body aircraft, respectively.
It was further learnt that the current rates by the ground handling companies in Nigeria had been stagnant since 1986, despite the drop of the value of naira against major currencies and the skyrocketed rates of acquisition of state-of-the-art equipment and training of personnel by the handlers.

Chairman, Board of Trustees, Aviation Ground Handlers Association of Nigeria (AGHAN), Sam Oluwole, regretted that the ground handling companies in 2021, currently charge far less what they were charging airlines in 1986, 35 years later.

According to him, in 1986, ground handlers were charging $1,139 for handling of a B737 aircraft, but lamented that despite the free fall of naira and increase in the price of acquisition of GSE, the handlers go as low as $300 for the same service in 2021.
“There are three aspects that concern us at the moment; economic, safety and security of the industry. As far back as 1986, grand handlers were charging about $1,139 to handle a narrow body aircraft for instance, but regrettably today, despite the crash of naira against the dollars and other currencies, some of the handlers charge as low as $300.
“Then a dollar was equal to 90,000, but today, the same dollar is about N500, yet we are charging low,” he said.

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