The Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON), save Ibom Air which has broken rank, have announced plans to shut down operations from Monday.
It has thrown up the nagging question: how will Nigerians, in the face of the scary insecurity and poor state of roads.
Ibom Air, on Saturday, said it had pulled out of the proposed shutdown of operations, saying it had financial obligations to suppliers, financiers and staff members, which depended on uninterrupted flow of revenue to service.
The grouse of the AON remains the skyrocketing cost of Aviation fuel, put at N700 per litre, the highest in the aviation history.
In a letter by its President, Alhaji Abdulmunaf Yunusa Sarina, to the Aviation Minister, Mr. Hadi Sirika,
the AON daid: “It is with a great sense of responsibility and patriotism that the Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) have carried on deploying and subsidizing their services to our highly esteemed Nigerian flying public in the last four months despite the steady and astronomical hike in the price of JetA1 and other operating costs.
“Overtime, aviation fuel price (JetA1) has risen from N190 per litre to N700 currently. No airline in the world can absorb this kind of sudden shock from such an astronomical rise over a short period.
“While aviation fuel worldwide is said to cost about 40% of an airline’s operating cost globally, the present hike has shut up Nigeria’s operating cost to about 95%.
“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 to an average of N120,000.
“The latter cannot be fully passed to passengers who are already experiencing a lot of difficulties.
“While AON appreciates the efforts of the current government under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari to ensure air transport in Nigeria grows, unfortunately, the cost of aviation fuel has continued to rise unabated thereby creating huge pressure on the sustainability of operations and financial viability of the airlines. This is unsustainable and the airlines can no longer absorb the pressure.
“To this end therefore, the Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) hereby wishes to regrettably inform the general public that member airlines will discontinue operations nationwide with effect from Monday May 9, 2022 until further notice.
“AON uses this medium to humbly state that we regret any inconveniences this very difficult decision might cause and appeal to travelers to kindly reconsider their travel itinerary and make alternative arrangements.”
In a statement, Ibom Air management said the inclusion of its name as signatory to the statement released by the association was derived from its active and committed membership of the AON.
The airline said as the only airline servicing Akwa-Ibom state, any voluntary stoppage of operations would completely cut off access by air in and out of the State, saying such action would be directly in conflict with and detrimental to the state.
The statement reads: “Ibom Airlines Limited (Ibom Air) has been inundated with inquiries about what will happen on Monday 09 May, 2022, following the public statement issued by the Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) Executive, on Friday 06 May, 2022 and it has become necessary for us to make the following clarifications: Ibom Air acknowledges the existential threat that these runaway fuel price increases pose for the air transport industry in Nigeria.
“We agree that this out-of-control situation is simply unsustainable. However, every airline has its unique business model and pressures. We believe that in spite of the escalating fuel prices, airlines volunteering to stop operations would rather exacerbate an already bad situation.
“Ibom Air has financial obligations to suppliers, financiers and staff, which depend on uninterrupted flow of revenue to service. More importantly is the fact that having been paid by customers in advance for flight bookings we are bound by contract to deliver the services already paid for, to avoid exposing the airline to the risk of avoidable litigation.
“Apart from the above factors, Ibom Air is currently the only airline serving Akwa Ibom State directly and as such, any voluntary stoppage of operations would completely cut off access by air into and out of the State. Such action would be directly in conflict with and detrimental to the interest of our shareholder.
“In view of the foregoing facts, Ibom Air had respectfully disagreed with the decision of AON to suspend flight operations on Monday 09 May 2022. Ibom Air cannot in the circumstance volunteer to stop operating and will continue normal operations on Monday 09 May 2022 and beyond. Ibom Air’s inclusion as “signatory” to the statement released by AON must have derived from its active and committed membership of the AON.”
Ibom Air management also disclosed that it identified with AON on its efforts to secure a sustainable fuel pricing regime for the airlines in the interest of the business, customers, stakeholders and the country.
“The above notwithstanding, we identify very strongly with our AON colleagues and will participate in every effort to resolve this frightening situation as soon as possible in the interest of our business, our customers, our stakeholders and our country.
“We thank our customers for their continued patronage and we thank the AON for our collective efforts to secure a sustainable fuel pricing regime for the airlines.”