The aviation sector may be grounded from tomorrow as airline operators and the workers in the sector are set to embark on warning strikes.
Although Ibom Air has pulled out of a collective action it earlier agreed to, the Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) has resolved to press on with its action.
AON official, Ewos Iroro told Daily Trust that the group’s position as communicated in its letter to the government was still in place.
AON’s action is in protest against the hike in the price of aviation fuel, popularly called JetA1, from N190 per litre to N700 per litre.
In addition to the decision of the airline operators to suspend their flights, the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency, Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority and the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology directed their members to embark on a warning strike over the non-implementation of conditions of service.
Also included in the action are the National Union of Air Transport Employees, the Association of Nigerian Aviation Professionals, and the Amalgamated Union of Public Corporation Civil Service Technical and Recreational Services Employees.
They are demanding justice and equity, “especially considering the long-suffering, patience and forbearance on the part of their members which they said had reached a new height”.
AON’s resolve last Friday to suspend flight operations as a result of fuel price hike has created division within its rank.
Ibom Airlines Limited (Ibom Air), one of its key members, countered the position of the group saying that suspending flights would only compound a bad situation.
Interestingly, Ibom Air’s CEO Mfon Udom was listed among the signatories to Friday’s statement by the AON.
The group had said that the price aviation fuel, also known as Jet A1, has reached an all-time high of N700 per litre, and that the increase was suffocating local carriers as they spend millions of naira to fill an aircraft with aviation fuel.
Other signatories to AON statement were its President, Abdulmunaf Yunusa Sarina; Chairman Air Peace an AON Vice President, Allen Onyema; Executive Director of Max Air, Shehu Wada; CEO of Aero Contractors, Abdullahi Mahmood; CEO of Overland Airways, Edward Boyo; Chairman United Nigeria Airlines, Obiora Okonkwo; CEO of Arik Air, Roy Ilegbodu; MD AzmanAir, Faisal Abdulmunaf; and Deputy CEO Dana Air, Sukh Mann.
In its dissenting statement on Saturday, Ibom Air said that shutting down operations was not the way out of the situation.
“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”, the airline stated.
“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 9th May 2022. Ibom Air cannot in the circumstance volunteer to stop operating and will continue normal operations on Monday 9th May 2022 and beyond”.
In a statement by his Special Assistant on Public Affairs, James Odaudu, the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika said: “While the efforts to assuage the situation are on, we wish to appeal to the airline operators, even in the difficult situation, to consider the multiplier effects of shutting down operations on Nigerians and global travellers, in taking their business-informed decisions and actions”.
The Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Aviation, Hon. Nnolim Nnaji also appealed to the airline operators to rescind their decision to shut down their operations due to the high cost of aviation fuel.
Two months ago, the House of Representatives had intervened on the high cost of Jet A1 and summoned the Group Managing Director of National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPC), Malam Melee Kyari.