Nigerian airlines suspend plans to ground flights over fuel prices

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The Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) has agreed to temporarily suspend plans to ground flights over exorbitant jet fuel prices. The suspension had initially been due to take effect on May 9, 2022.  

This news follows an announcement made on May 6, 2022, where the AON addressed a letter to the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, and the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority stating that its member airlines would halt operations across Nigeria over exorbitant fuel prices. 

However, the AON has been under pressure from Nigerian government officials to suspend plans owing to the potential long-term effects. 

According to the Premium Times, the AON “acceded” to the government appeals. The Premium Times includes a copy of the AON statement in its report, which states that “further to numerous calls from the highest echelons in government with promises to urgently intervene in the crisis being faced by airlines due to the astronomic and continuously rising cost of JetA1, that the AON has acceded to requests to withdraw the action for the time being while we allow for a fresh round of dialogue with government in the hope of reaching an amicable solution.” 

“In view of the above and in the interest of national economy and security considerations, AON hereby wishes to notify the general public that the earlier announced shutdown of operations on May 9, 2022, is hereby suspended in good faith pending the outcome of hopefully fruitful engagement with the government,” said the Association.  

AON’s member airlines consist of Max Air, Ibom Air, Aero Contractors, Overland Airways, Air Peace, United Nigeria Airlines, Arik Air, Azman Air and Dana Air. 

Steep hike in cost of fuel  

In a statement issued by AON on May 6, 2022, the association describes the rise in fuel prices as “astronomical”, stating that no airline could absorb such a steep hike in prices over a short period of time. 

The AON stated that the price for JetA1 aviation fuel in Nigeria had tripled from N190 ($0.46) in January 2022 to N700 ($1.69) present day. The increased fuel prices now account for up to 95% of Nigerian airlines operating costs, against an industry average of 40%, the AON said.  

The association also highlighted that it could not pass on the increased cost to its passengers who were “already experiencing a lot of difficulties”. The continued rise in prices added pressure on the sustainability of the airlines’ operations and financial viability, the AON added.  

“In the face of this, airlines have engaged the Federal Government, the National Assembly, NNPC and Oil Marketers with the view to bringing the cost of JetA1 down which has currently made the unit cost per seat for a one-hour flight in Nigeria today an average of N120,000($288). The latter cannot be fully passed to passengers who are already experiencing a lot of difficulties,” the AON said.  

Addressing the public, the AON informed that its member airlines will cease nationwide operations from Monday May 9, 2022. 

Not the first time  

Despite the overturned flight suspension, this is not the first time that the AON has threatened to halt flight operations across its member airlines because of rising fuel costs.  

During a public address at the House of Representatives on March 14, 2022, Allen Onyema, the Vice President of Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) and CEO of Air Peace, also suggested that Nigeria’s airlines could not sustain the hike in fuel prices.  

Nigeria’s airlines were at risk of imminent collapse within three days unless a solution could be found, Onyema added.  

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