The decision of the Federal Government to join the controversial Single Africa Air Transport Market (SAATM) in May 2019 had positive impact in the country’s aviation industry, according to Mr. Basil Agboarumi, the Managing Director of Skyway Aviation Handling Company (SAHCO) Plc.
This is as the ground handling company described the handling of British Airways within 2020 as one of its major achievements.
Agboarumi, in his speech delivered at the 10th Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the ground handling company at its headquarters at the Murtala Muhammed Airport (MMA), Lagos, recently, said that the signing of the African Union’s (AU) SAATM initiative was beneficial to the country’s aviation sector, especially the ground handling sub-sector.
Basil stated that the initiative enabled three African carriers to make their entrances into the Nigerian market in 2019.
The airlines according to him were TAAG Angola, TACV and Air Senegal, but regretted that Air Namibia suspended its operations to Lagos over unresolved diplomatic issues, stressing that before the suspension of flight SAHCO was handling the carrier.
Nigeria had put pen to paper on the implementation of SAATM May 2019, which brought the number of member states committed to implement SAATM and incorporate it into their aviation policies, legislation and regulations to 28.
Though, the indigenous carriers under the auspices of Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) had severely kicked against Nigeria joining the initiative, arguing that it would negatively affect the growth of the country’s carriers, but the Federal Government was adamant on its intention to join the other 44 AU member states that voted for its establishment.
On the attraction of new airlines, Agboarumi said that British Airways, which operates 14 frequencies to Lagos and Abuja airport weekly, joined its number of clientele in 2020.
According to him, in February 2020, the company received an offer letter from the British carrier for the handling of its passenger operations in Lagos and Abuja, stressing that the company took over the handling of the airline on May 8, 2020.
“It is worthy to note here that the British Airways contract is a major achievement for SAHCO Plc, being one of the largest operators into Nigeria with 14 weekly frequencies into Lagos and Abuja,” he said.
Apart from British Airways, Agboarumi further emphasised that the company would handle two startup airlines in the country; NG Eagle and Green Africa, while it also within the year began handling of Air Peace in two additional stations – Ilorin and Ibadan.
Agboarumi, however, regretted the trade war between the United States and China since 2019, which it said had little effect on its cargo revenue, noting that towards the end of the year, SAHCO negotiated a 40 per cent increase in cargo terminal handling rates.
He added: “This increment became effective on December 3, 2019. SAHCO was awarded the contract for the provision of cargo and mail handling by Virgin Atlantic in the second quarter of the year 2019. Also, Ethiopian Airline, one of our esteemed clients maintained the dominant position as the leading freighter operator in Nigeria.
“It is worthy of note to mention that all through the year, the three ground handling companies worked together for form an association, which is aimed at creating an enabling business environment within the aviation industry that will be favourable to all member organisations.”
The SAHCO boss also observed that the closure of the land borders by the Federal Government in 2019, had positive impacts in the sector.
According to him, consignments, which hitherto were smuggled through the land borders had to come through sea or airports, noting that this policy had increased revenues for it as a ground handler.
On the 2020 outlook of SAHCO, Agboarumi bemoaned that the advent of coronavirus within the year had badly affected the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA0 projection for the industry.
He noted that ground handlers through the Aviation Ground Handlers Association of Nigeria (AGHAN) and the Aviation Services Association (ASA) had applied for government support to survive the pandemic, which would enable the handlers to give their supports to the development of aviation in the country.
But, the SAHCO boss emphasised that the lockdown did not totally affect its revenue generation as the company still handled some cargo during the lockdown period.
He added: “While commercial passenger operations were suspended into Nigeria, cargo services, first with essential cargo were still coming into Lagos especially all through the period of the lockdown. Ethiopian Airline, which is the dominant freighter did not suspend operations, hence, our cargo revenue was not totally affected.”
Source: Daily Independent July 7 2020