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Govt intervention fails as Air Peace, Arik, five others insist on flight suspension

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Despite plea from the Federal Government, Air Peace, Arik Air and some other members of the Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) are going ahead with their plan to shut down air travel operations on Monday, May 9 – a decision that has been trailed with mixed reactions.

The airline operators said they could not continue operation with the current cost of doing business in the country, which rose by 95 percent due to price of aviation oil, JetA1, hitting N700 per litre, from N190.

Ripples Nigeria had reported two days ago that the operators said they could no longer cope with the cost of operation, with the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, stating that the issue of fuel supply was not within the purview of the ministry, but the airlines should consider the ripple effect before suspending operation.

While Ibom Air has backed out of the suspension of flights, other airlines are going ahead, reflecting government’s intervention has failed to halt the suspension.

In a statement on Sunday, the airline operators said the shutdown of operation isn’t a strike, but a suspension due to current market reality.

Recall that the industry had moved to increase flight ticket price in March 2022, but the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) warned against the hike.

“In the light of frantic developments within the last twenty-four hours since informing the general public of our decision to suspend operations in response to the astronomic and continuously rising cost of JetA1, the Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) would like to state unequivocally that we stand firmly by our decision,” the statement reads.

READ ALSO: Ibom Air pulls out of planned airline strike as FG begs operators

This was said in the circular jointly issued by Max Air executive director, Shehu Wada, CEO of Arik Air, Roy Ilegbodu, Deputy CEO, Dana Air, Sukh Mann, Air Peace chairman, Allen Onyema, Azman Air MD, Faisal Abdulmunaf, United Nigeria Airlines chairman, Obiora Okonkwo, and Aero Contractors CEO, Abdullahi Mahmood.

They described the current cost of operation as out of control, stating that the situation can’t be sustained, “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) 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 that “the out-of-control situation is simply unsustainable.

“May we use this medium to clearly state that; Airlines are not on strike. We are private investors who do not run our airlines with public funds to be able to continue to pay upfront in cash at N700 per litre for JetA1 which has increased our cost on a daily basis to about 95 per cent.

“This is totally unsustainable. And its consequences, if allowed to stay, will be borne by the passengers; which is what we are trying to prevent.

“To this end, therefore, we remain resolute in our resolve to find a lasting solution to this crucial problem of national emergency and once again use this medium to appeal to the conscience of our esteemed passengers for their understanding.” the joint statement reads.

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