Air travel operators have further recorded marginal dip in their load factor over EndSARS protests that are festering nationwide.
The aviation sector that is still battling the after-effects of COVID-19 lockdown and slow pace of recovery has further slid below the 50 percent average load factor of the last few weeks.
The development was compounded by last Thursday’s industrial action and picketing of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) by the aviation workers’ unions, which grounded all operations for several hours.
Fillers from sector showed that the protests had telling effects on daily operations, with several passengers either arriving late or rescheduling flights, and airlines departing behind schedule.
The Media and Communications Officer of Dana Air, Kingsley Ezenwa, yesterday, said the effect was quite minimal, though airlines had to strategise to cope with the development.
Ezenwa said the main impact was flight delays and a drop in load factor.
The Chief Operating Officer of one of the airlines also confirmed the slight drop, though he was more worried about the unions’ protests and disruption to flight operations.
“I think it is shameful that the aviation workers’ unions, major stakeholders and beneficiaries of this industry are engaging in actions that are injurious to our collective survival. I think their protests that readily pick on our operations are not good enough.
“They picked on FAAN and went on to disrupt our own operations, forcing everyone to remain on ground. What is the business of private operators with FAAN? You cannot be fighting injustice with new injustices. If they picket FAAN to get their requests, but in the process killed our businesses, how will both FAAN and the workers survive afterwards?”
A coalition of aviation workers’ unions on Thursday began industrial action and picketing of FAAN, Lagos office, over unresolved welfare disputes with the management.
The action, following the expiration of a seven-day ultimatum, also shut the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, out of a town hall meeting with workers in Lagos and South-West region.
Their protest march also brought the Lagos airports to a halt for several hours, with commuters and motorists unable to access the terminals. The Air Transport Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN), National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE), Association of Nigerian Aviation Professionals (ANAP) and the Nigerian Union of Pensioners (NUP) last week issued FAAN an ultimatum to resolve pending pay disputes, salaries and gratuity.
The unions are asking cash-strapped FAAN management to remit N105.3 billion actuarial valuation as at 2016, remittance of all pension deductions to the Pension Fund Administrators (PFA), immediate preparation of 2020 actuarial valuation.
Other demands include immediate remittance of all co-operative deductions, payment of child education grant, leave allowance, furniture grant, gratuity, COVID-19 palliatives, death benefits and other sundry claims.