Domestic airlines refuse to call off May 9 strike

DOMESTIC airlines, under the aegis of the Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON), have remained resolute in their decision to suspend operations in response to the rising cost of JetA1, commonly known as aviation fuel.

A statement signed by its President, Abdulmunaf Yunusa Sarina, on May 8, 2022 said that the domestic airlines stood firmly by their decision.

The AON had in a letter announced plans to discontinue flight operations from Monday, May 9, owing to the high cost of aviation fuel, a move the Ibom Air management had opposed even while expressing understanding with the AON reason.

The fresh statement maintaining the resolve to discontinue flights was endorsed by the chief executives of domestic airlines, including the Executive Director, Max Air, Alhaji Shehu Wada; Chairman, United Nigeria Airlines, Dr Obiora Okonkwo; Chairman, Air Peace, Barrister Allen Onyema; Arik Air Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Captain Roy Ilegbodu; Aero Contractors CEO, Capt. Abdullahi Mahmood; Azman Air Managing Director, Alhaji Faisal Abdulmunaf; and Deputy CEO, Dana Air, Mr. Sukh Mann.

The statement, expressing dismay with Ibom Air, said the reason for the decision to discontinue flights was in the nation’s best interest.

“Airline operators are patriotic citizens, and we are doing all we can to protect the flying public contrary to what some subjective schools of thought might suggest. This is a collective sacrifice for the common interest of our nation.

“AON, however, regrets the unfortunate position taken by one of our members, Ibom Air, not to stand by the collective decision. While they may have their reasons for doing what they did, it is pertinent to note that they equally accepted in their statement that the JetA1 situation poses an ‘existential threat to the air transport industry in Nigeria’ and the out-of-control situation is simply unsustainable,” the statement read in part.

An Arik airline

The AON stressed that airlines were not on strike but cannot continue to pay upfront in cash at N700 per litre for JetA1, which they said had increased their cost on a daily basis to about 95 per cent.

The airlines argued that the situation was “totally unsustainable” and would be borne by the passengers in the future, which they stated was what they were trying to prevent.

Ibom Air had yesterday disassociated itself from the other airlines planning to stop flight operations, saying stoppage of operations would exacerbate an already bad situation.

Meanwhile, Azman Air has announced a suspension of its flights with immediate effect.

In a statement on May 7, 2022, across social media platforms, titled, ‘Azman Air suspends operations’, the airline wrote:

“In compliance with the verdict of the Airline Operators of Nigeria to discontinue operations nationwide starting from Monday, May 9, 2022, the Azman Air Management will like to inform its esteemed passengers that all our domestic operations are now suspended till further notice.

“The situation leading to this difficult decision is truly a pathetic one and we pray there is a quick intervention to restore the sustainability of air transport in Nigeria.”

File photo: Passengers board a Dana aircraft

The  President, Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association of Nigeria, Alex Nwuba, said the airlines chose to shut down without providing any alternatives for their inconveniences.

    Nwuba, who spoke in a television programme on May 8, 2022, proferred a few solutions for the airlines.

    “One of the bigger challenges is that there is not so much capital in this business. But what stops the airline from converting from purely private companies and going to the stock market to raise money when you don’t pay interests? What stops them from right-sizing? In right-sizing, we are saying that this Boeing 737-300 is too big for this market.

    “We may raise the fares from N50,000 to N150,000. Passengers number would drop off tremendously as we generally say five per cent of the public travel. So, 10 million unique people travel within the economy. With this model, maybe one million people would be travelling and they would pay a much higher airfare and we would not need such large aeroplanes,” he advised.

    Nwuba said downing tools because the airlines were faced with a challenge was not acceptable as any business encounters challenges.

    Experienced Business reporter seeking the truth and upholding justice. Covered capital markets, aviation, maritime, road and rail, as well as economy. Email tips to [email protected]. Follow on Twitter @theminentmuyiwa and on Instagram @Hollumuyiwah.

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