A fragmented and weak Airline Operators of Nigeria, AON, has suspended plans to ground flights starting Monday over the high cost of aviation fuel that is crippling their businesses and making operations unprofitable.
The Airline Operators “acceded to requests to withdraw the action” until the union could hold a fresh round of talks with the government, it said in a statement on Sunday. “We have also reached the decision with the highest consideration for our esteemed customers who have been faced with uncertainty over the last few days,” it said.
Before the suspension, Ibom Air and Dana airline have distanced themselves from the planned action.
Oriental News Nigeria, had reported that Ibom Air on Saturday said it will not take part in an industry plan to stop flights from Monday over the high cost of jet fuel, saying the move would affect revenues needed to service obligations to financiers and suppliers.
Ibom Air, one of the smaller members of the nine airline association, is the first to say it will not participate in grounding flights.
Ibom Air, backed by Akwa Ibom state, said high jet fuel posed a threat but stopping operations would exacerbate the situation due to obligations and that customers have paid in advance for flights.
In November, Ibom Air signed a firm order for ten Airbus (AIR.PA) A220 planes at the Dubai Airshow.
The aviation Ministry said on Saturday it was concerned about the difficulties and the spiraling air fares due to jet fuel cost but appealed to the airlines to consider the effects of a shutdown on travelers at home and abroad.
A previous threat by the Association to stop flights over high costs was averted by government financial assistance.
Also, Dana air, rejected the move stating that its decision is in the overall interest of its guests, corporate partners, staff and the industry at large.
“While Dana Air agrees with the Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) on all the challenges facing domestic airlines in Nigeria and have on many occasions actively participated in the collective and ongoing engagement of relevant authorities on the urgent need to tackle the many issues domestic airlines have been grappling with which includes the skyrocketing cost of Jet A1, we have taken a decision not to join the suspension of flights on May 9, 2022.
“We acknowledge that the present cost of jet A1 is unsustainable and should not be passed to the flying public, we therefore call on the government to act urgently to resolve these unending operational challenges while Dana Air will continue to support every effort by the AON to achieve a quick and peaceful resolution in the interest of our dear country Nigeria. ” the airline said.
Nigeria’s 23 airlines have struggled to keep up operations because of the massive disruption to energy markets caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The carriers said they are unable to continue to absorb the high cost of jet fuel that has more than tripled to 700 naira ($1.68) per liter over the past four months.
Minister of Aviation Hadi Sirika said the government was looking at ways to ameliorate the challenges faced by the airlines and appealed to them not to withdraw their services.
Air Peace, Nigeria’s biggest carrier by passenger numbers, flying to Dubai and Johannesburg, earlier warned of flight disruptions due to jet fuel scarcity.