• Thursday, June 20, 2024
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Demand for helicopters, private jets rises on election campaigns

Explainer: How private jet operators operate ‘illegally’ as commercial

With campaigns hotting up ahead of the general election slated for next month, helicopter and private jet operators are seeing increased patronage from politicians.

BusinessDay gathered that more politicians are already booking charter jets to fly them from one destination to another to carry out their campaigns.

Private jet and helicopter companies are seeing an increase in flight operations and some have leased jets to help them meet increasing demands.

The Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has since received requests for Air Operating Certificates (AOCs) from intending helicopter and private jet companies.

The NCAA recently granted 7Star Airlines Limited, a Nigeria-based helicopter and jet charter company, an AOC to commence flight operations, thereby boosting the number of private jets and helicopters in the country.

“No doubt, this is a peak period for us. The business is doing well. There is an increase in helicopter and private jet operations. People fly all the time but understandably, it has increased because of the elections,” a private jet operator told BusinessDay on condition of anonymity.

“Every single private jet in the country belongs to someone – that person has contacts in government and contacts of politicians.”

According to him, the private jet business is doing well this period, and flights have increased, which could be a function of the owners of these private jets flying more.

“Some people brought in jets and helicopters because of elections but it is not significant compared to the total that is already in the company. We have about 100 private jets in Nigeria,” he said.

BusinessDay’s findings show that in 2015, there were no fewer than 146 private jets in Nigeria. The number however reduced to about 70 in 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. Currently, the number has increased to over 100, showing an increase in demand for private jets.

Last year, Avantefly, a new private charter luxury, tech and travel company, launched in Nigeria in a bid to create easy access to a vast array of assets from private jets, helicopters, hotels and executive space bookings, amongst others.

Abednego Galadima, president of the National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers, told BusinessDay that because campaigns are short term, some private jet operators have already wet lease aircraft, which means the aircraft will come with foreign crew and this may not really impact the local pilots.

He said: “A few companies that are int0 general aviation involve the local pilots but for those categories, they have their pilots in place. However, scheduling will change to reflect the current increase in flight activities.

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“We can reasonably conclude that there is an increase in activities. Some of helicopters and private jets have been in place. It is just that they have new arrangements. We are happy that the NCAA is giving a number of new AOCs to helicopter and private jet companies, and this is opening the space.”

BusinessDay’s findings show that last year, more private jet operators brought in spares and leased jets in preparation for election campaigns.

Last year, the NCAA and Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) raised the alarm over the number of private jets and spares being brought into the country without payment for import duties.

Seventeen owners of foreign-registered private jets, comprising top business moguls, leading commercial banks and other wealthy Nigerians, dragged the NCS and the NCAA to court last year, seeking to prevent the industry regulator from grounding their planes for allegedly refusing to pay import duty on the jets.

This followed the go-ahead given by the Federal Government to the NCS to ground 91 private jets belonging to some Nigerians over their alleged refusal to pay import duties running to over N30 billion.