Air cargo fares skyrocket after ban on Antonovs
Just one week after the South Sudan Civil Aviation Authority (SSCA) banned all the Antonov planes, the increased demand for local air travel has led to a spike in the fares.
In an exclusive interview with the airport agencies handling bookings yesterday, the group revealed to The City Review that the suspension of the aircraft by the authorities has affected them negatively, citing increased air transport cargo fees.
This situation leaves a huge opportunity for passenger airlines to expand upon their small share of the air cargo market by refocusing their efforts and attention.
Amen Deng Chol, the Managing Director of Super Power for Trading and Investment-Airline Services, said the suspension has given extra workload to a few cargo planes in the country, and as a result, the fees have increased.
“We now have one army Antonov, which is the one transporting the cargo, and is now moving two times a day, otherwise I think people would have been suffering. Maybe people will be going on strike,” he stressed.
He said it would be good if the government could hire their aircraft to help South Sudanese in case such things were happening; it would not affect people badly.
“Now the private aircraft cargo fees have increased significantly, they have actually doubled.” For instance, we used to hire Antonov 74 and 72 at around $7,000, but as of yesterday it has gone up to $18,000 to Ruweng, which many people may not be able to afford, ” he revealed.
He added that places like Benitu, Ruweng, and others have a lot of things, especially food items, that need to be transported to Juba and other places.
Nancy Malow, the General Manager for Sahara Aviation Limited (SAL), said they have already been facing challenges which they are praying day and night to rise above.
“You know, someone whose hand is in cold water is not like someone whose hand is in hot water. What I mean here is that the authorities that stopped the aircraft, I think they are enjoying it, but for us [we] are trying to pull our hands from that hot water, ” she stressed.
Yet to adjust
Ms Malow added that it was difficult for South Sudanese to adjust in such a short time given the abrupt nature of the decision.
“Even for me personally, I cannot blame them, because, in any country where you see everyone struggling for survival and things becoming difficult, you will always face such issues simply because people are stuck with problems.”
However, she said they are negotiating with South Sudan Civil Aviation to see the resumption of the suspended cargo planes in the country.
Jok Riek, the Secretary-General for the South Sudan Air Services Union, who is also a member of the committee formed to follow up the issue with South Sudan Civil Aviation, revealed that the order has affected the young South Sudanese who are trying everything possible to stand on their own.
“Yes, we are not against the move taken by the authorities, but where they were before, those things would have been done before putting the people in such a situation, and I believe not all the banned Antonovs are bad.”
“We are disappointed, they have left us with the clients in a big conflict, and many of the agencies are losing and are continuously losing because most of the customers are not understanding,” he stressed.
He said the committee is trying to talk to the high authorities to find ways of helping people who need the services including helping the agencies.
Linda William, an airline agency working at Juba International Airport, said the suspension of cargo aircraft has affected both the plane owners and the clients negatively.
“We are left confused, especially us the agencies, we have faced a lot of serious issues within these few days, imagine the clients are coming to the offices and blaming the companies for not sending their cargo, not understanding that it was not us,” she told The City Review.
He said they were left with no voice to say anything as if they did not have rights, adding that they are even not allowed to express themselves since some clients feel like they created the situation.
“I am laughing but believe me, my dear, it is a hard task for us especially this time, many people are not believing although some of them are aware, you know South Sudanese, they like giving headaches to someone especially women,” she lamented.
She said most of the clients have already demanded their goods to be returned including the fees charged for the cargo.
She said it was like some people (clients) were given wrong information out there, saying some of them after calling where their cargo was going and after confirming it had not reached, they reacted angrily thinking their cargo was stolen.
She said the government has to be blamed for all these messes in the country, adding that it was the government’s responsibility to make sure any aircraft coming into the country had clean documents.
The SSCA banned all the Antonov planes over safety concerns linked to substandard maintenance.
The order came just after an Antonov cargo plane, belonging to Optimum Antonov 26 crashed shortly after taking off from Juba International Airport and claiming the lives of five crew members.
The Antonov that [aircraft] have been grounded include AN-26, AN-24, 28, and 30, including AN-SO Hawkers and HS-748 and others except for the UN-operated Antonov.
The Director General-Air Navigation Service at the South Sudan Civil Aviation Authority, Stephen Rombe Tako Lojulo, urged the owners of the planes to find ways of removing them for maintenance so that they can come back with the authorised documents from recognised international centres.
Since independence, South Sudan has witnessed several aviation accidents that have involved Antonov aircraft including that one of the South Supreme Airlines that happened at Pieri, Uror County, killing all 10 people on board, including the two pilots.