Airline operators in the country, on Friday, declared that they would halt operations from Monday following the jump in the price of aviation fuel, popularly called JetA1, from N190/litre to N700/litre.
In a letter to the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, which was copied to the Director-General, Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, Musa Nuhu, the airlines said they could not continue their operations due to the astronomical rise in aviation fuel price.
The letter was signed by the President, Airline Operators of Nigeria, Abdulmunaf Sarina, and the chief executives and chairmen of other airlines operating across the country.
The letter read in part, “It is with a great sense of responsibility and patriotism that the Airline Operators of Nigeria have carried on deploying and subsidising 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 has risen from N190/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 per cent of an airline’s operating cost globally, the present hike has shut up Nigeria’s operating cost to about 95 per cent.”
The AON stated that in the face of this, airlines had engaged the Federal Government, the National Assembly, the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited and oil marketers with a view to bringing down the cost of JetA1.
The airlines stated that the cost of aviation fuel had currently made the unit cost per seat for a one-hour flight in Nigeria to an average of N120,000.
The AON added, “The latter cannot be fully passed to passengers, who are already experiencing a lot of difficulties.
“While the AON appreciates the efforts of the current government under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari to ensure that 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 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.”
The association stated that it regretted any inconveniences the very difficult decision might cause and appealed to travellers to kindly reconsider their travel itineraries and make alternative arrangements.
When asked if the government would intervene in the matter, the Special Assistant on Public Affairs to the Minister of Aviation, James Odaudu, stated that though he had yet to receive official communication on the issue, it was not the duty of the government to provide aviation fuel.
He explained that the airlines were private businesses and as such had been running their ventures independently, but noted that it was not out of place for them to seek help when necessary.