ANTHONY OMOH examines, through the eyes of passengers, the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria’s (FAAN) recent increase of Passenger Service Charge (PSC) at the nation’s airport concluding that the airport authority was introducing a wrong measure in this time of crisis and urging them to rescind the decision until the industry, and in particular their facilities improve.
Reports that the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) increased airport charges over the weekend for passengers travelling through all airports in the country have been met with jeers and frowns especially by the travelling public.
The legality of the increment is definitely not in question as FAAN was directed by the Federal Government to make such. But the real question is what the increase portends for the passenger and for the industry in general.
The first part of this two pronged question is the reason why passengers are wondering why they still have to travel by air after series of hike of air fare, no thanks to fuel prices and other factors.
The levy, Passenger Service Charge (PSC), which has been hiked to N1, 000 from N350 for domestic travellers took effect weeks ago and certain industry players begin to ask why such an increase of over 190 per cent especially when no improvement whatsoever have been made on any airport controlled by FAAN.
Worse yet, for international travel, FAAN, is said to have raised the charge from $35 to $50, a situation some airlines claimed was not communicated to them.
With this, a passenger travelling to Accra, Ghana for instance will to pay over $100 on airport tax as he would pay $50 at the airport and another $50 at Kotoka International Airport, Accra, all exclusive of airfare.
The implication is that Accra, which is about 45 minutes by air, may cost over N100, 000 as airlines are contemplating raising airfare to cover the new charges.
Another issue worthy of note is that of facilitation, aviation thrives itself to be the fastest means of travel and there are rumours that FAAN has already started collecting the money on their own hindering facilitation at the nation’s airport.
On that regard they would have looked for another way especially as they know that this act would cause unnecessary delay to air travellers who have picked speed in facilitation and travel over other means of transport.
Member of think tank group, Aviation Round Table and the convener of Congress of Aviation Unions Professional Association (CAUPA), Engineer Sheri Kyari who spoke on this development which he described as sad buttressed that FAAN has not improved on facility and was wrong to hike PSC.
He said the airport authority was selling old and expired services for jacked up prices, stating that air passengers are not happy with paying for FAANs incompetence and that the extra charge will drive them to the roads.
Kyari said,” Well the information that FAAN has increased their PSC, I think that it is not a thoughtful decision at all in view of what is happening in the aviation industry. Number one; there is no visible improvement in any of their facility that the passengers are using today. It’s like you are giving someone the same menu and he is paying higher for it for no reason. “
“So if there was any visible improvement lets assume conveyor belts that are getting bad now and then to enhance faster delivery of passenger luggage after disembarking from the aircraft one can say okay but nothing tangible that one can say is the reason for the increase.”
“Secondly”, he said, “passengers have been groaning and I can assure you that a sizeable number of passengers have departed from air travel in view of the increase in cost as a result of fuel increase. So it is so sad at the moment for anybody to come on board and burden passengers with these extra charges again.”
Engineer Kyari also said that even when FAAN succeeds as they have to get increment in a bid to boost their revenue generation, they will not be able to account for the increased income being gotten.
He also argued that the money from PSC was pittance compared to what they can be getting from other areas especially their concessionaires calling on FAAN to look at the long term effect of the increment as it would affect passengers and cargo who are the reason for the air travel in the first place
“The greatest of worry is that even if FAAN at the end of the day is able to get money because this increase is like 190 per cent increase on what passengers are going to be paying, if they finally get this money, money will be expended the same way they are expending money today they are not looking at the passenger as someone that needs to be kept, only looking a areas to raise their revenue to do the same thing they have been doing. “
“There are worries, number one, you are trying to send passengers away in an industry that is dwindling and number two, the finances that will come will not be judiciously used. So I don’t see the need or the reason for FAAN to increase their PSC BY 190 per cent”
We need to bring people that will fly in the industry because I don’t know any passenger that will pay N30, 000 for a trip to Abuja when they know that the most expensive is not more than N6, 000 by road to pay N24, 000 extra is not acceptable, if you multiply it by two it will be N48, 000 that can be saved. We should not be do things that will scare passengers away.
General Manager Public Affairs of FAAN, Mr. Akin Olukunle who spoke to our correspondent in defence of the increased charges said that the approval for the increment has been given since 2010 and it was because of the way the industry was heading that FAAN relaxed the increment.
He said that FAAN only increased a few weeks back and that Bi-Courtney, one of its concessionaires and operators of a terminal have been charging N1, 000 without anyone raising an eyebrow.
However a recent report had stated that Bi-Courtney, operators of the domestic terminal, MMA2, continues to charge the old rate of N35O per passenger.
Other reports have it that Bi- Courtney had been charging N1, 000 from after it started operations, all these discrepancies are as a result of a lack of openness in the aviation industry which lacks statistics and even research (That though is a story for another day).
According to a recent report, Bi-Courtney is moving towards increasing the passenger service charge (PSC) from N350.00 that it charges currently.
The report quoted a source who disclosed that the proposed increase was necessitated by the fact that the FAAN had increased PSC from all the terminals it controls from N350.00 to N1, 000 and “we are still collecting the old fee. You cannot compare a FAAN-controlled airport with a private terminal.”
In May, FAAN issued a circular intimating airlines operating from its terminals about the new fee. FAAN said the tax would be collected in cash at point of boarding.
The airports are Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport, Abuja, Osubi Airport Warri, Margaret Ekpo International Airport, Calabar, Akanu Ibiam Airport, Enugu State, Port Harcourt International Airport, Omagwa, Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano State, Akwa Ibom Airport Uyo, Sam Mbakwe Airport, Owerri, and Benin Airport.
Kyari who also spoke on the war of words between FAAN and just about everyone else over the charges insinuated the airport authority’s agenda was selfish and that they were not looking at the big picture in the industry which may lead to a loss of passengers and cargo flying the air.
He said, “Well for FAAN to say Federal government has given them a directive or approval, I want to say FG didn’t just sit in Abuja and say FAAN increase PSC, It must have been suggested by FAAN and they sought approval from the Federal Government, maybe giving the reasons but Bi-Courtney just came yesterday and they have put up a facility that is befitting for passengers to travel with.”
“FAAN should be able to raise they facility to meet that of Bi-Courtney so that when passengers are talking they will say they have seen what FAAN has done and it is worth the increase. “
“They (FAAN) have not done anything to improve on the facility so there is no justification. Passengers are protesting, they have not seen anything that will help them and so FAAN should not look at this that FG has given them approval to increase PSC, for God sake FAAN should look at this industry without air travellers, without cargo there is no aviation so we cannot say because airlines are suffering on fuel increase, price increase and then FAAN would hide behind that and increase PSC, it is not advisable at this time.”
Already a huge number of travellers have taken to the roads because of the issue of Aviation fuel scarcity coupled with fare increase and the Director General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Dr. Harold Demuren is at the forefront of making air travel compete with the road.
He always surmises,” We want to compete with the roads and the only way to do that is to match them by fares, already we are the fastest and safest means to get to where they are going and most people with goods know this and want to fly us but they say our fares are too high.”
With this kind of honest admission and with FAAN adding more burdens on the passengers will Dr. Demuren see his life time dream of competition between road and air? Or is the loving DG merely another dreamer?
In the next five years if we are talking of development, and the country is able to develop its rail system, will the air transport industry still thrive? Since rail will be cheaper and almost as fast as well as safer too for goods.
Kyari who also reacted to this said, “I think I will say we will be able to complete and take quite a large number of road travellers, number 1, If this airfare remains stable than with the little increase in the salary of workers, the industry both organization and workers in the industry must sit and do research in the industry to search, they can make money where development can come in and they can expand the industry. However I am afraid if rail transport comes online in the next five years then air travel might have a lot more competition than it bargained for.”
The same situation is applicable to the waterways in the country. Already aviation is seen as an elitist means of travel and if FAAN or anybody else continues increasing fares and pushing passengers away, Nigeria will not have a viable and vibrant air travel industry.