Nigerian Airlines Spend N10bn Yearly on Expatriate Pilots
Facts have emerged that Nigerian airlines spend over N10 billion annually on expatriate pilots and engineers
that operate and maintain modern aircraft, which have taken over the nation’s airspace.
This, according to aviation experts, is a huge loss to the airlines because such expenditure is usually in
foreign currency even though domestic operators sell tickets largely in Naira, the local currency.
There is a widespread belief that the airlines may have been left only with the choice of giving preference
to expatriate pilots currently, because Nigerian pilots are not adequate enough in number and skill, to
operate the new generation aircraft which are advanced in technology and sophistication.
A foreign captain earns salary that is twice the amount a Nigerian captain earns, if a Nigerian earns N1.2
million a month, his foreign counterpart earns twice as much and expatriate pilot will have a rotation more
than that of the Nigerian pilot.
On the average, expatriate captain spends average of six weeks in Nigeria and four weeks overseas; some
spend as low as six months in Nigeria and the rest of the year overseas, while others spend about eight
months in a year. This means that at any point in time, an airline will have half number of its foreign pilots
To augment those that are on vacation, an airline that may need about 25 pilots should have about 50 so
that when one half is on holiday the other half will be on duty.
This saps all the revenue an airline in the country makes and a huge chunk of the airline’s current
expenditure is spent on pilots’ salaries.
So this means that 20 expatriate pilots are equal to 40 Nigerian pilots because while the Nigerian pilots work
throughout the year, the foreign pilot works half the year. This also means that if an airline is budgeting N1
billion for pilots’ salary, it has to double that amount if it is going to employ expatriates.
Also it is the responsibility of the airline to keep the foreign license of the expatriate pilot current and this
takes a lot of money because the training for the foreign pilot is highly expensive.
These foreign pilots are accommodated in hotels, the least, which should be N20,000 per night for as long
as the pilot stays in the country. The airline also pays for his ticket whenever he travels out of Nigeria.
The Nigerian airline also has to pay for feeding an visa processes, a major airline pays up to N2 million a
month for feeding and visa services, summing up to N24 million annually.
Hotel accommodation on the average is N15 million a month.
“Many of these expatriate pilots operate six weeks on and four weeks off; others operate eight weeks on
and two weeks off.
This can only be compared to the oil companies, but the oil company has high margin of profit, which is not
the same with the airline business, which has about three per cent profit margin.”
A seasoned aviator and a pilot with many years of experience advised that to resolve this imbalance, the
Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) should incorporate manpower training as part of its regulations for
In other words, before an airline is given operating license, it has to show its training programme for the
training of local pilots with the objective that after operating for some years, perhaps with dominant foreign
pilots, it would train enough Nigerian pilots that would take over from the foreign pilots.