March 2, 2024

Jet A1 price hike: Domestic flight suspension suffers setback as Ibom Air backs out 

…Aviation Minister invites AON for negotiation

Oredola Adeola

Ahead of Monday’s commencement of nationwide suspension of air travel services by the Airline Operators of Nigerian ( AON), Ibom Air  has backed out of the proposed service disruption, insisting that it has unique business model and pressures that would cater for  the Jet A1 price hike.

The Ibom Air, the five star airline owned by the great people of Akwa Ibom State, in statement issued on Saturday, May 7, 2022, said it is committed to keep flying travelers despite the decision of the AON.

Recall that the Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) in a statement jointly signed by Alhaji (Dr.) Abdulmunaf Yunusa Sarina, AON President, and Chairmen of the local airlines in Nigeria, planned to embark on flight disruption due to hike in price of aviation fuel (JetA1) which it claimed rose from N190 per litre to N700 currently.

However, Ibom Airlines Limited (Ibom Air) said it has been inundated with inquiries about what will happen on Monday. The management of the state-owned airline  said, in spite of the escalating fuel prices, airlines volunteering to stop operations would rather exacerbate an already bad situation.

The statement from Ibom Air reads, “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.

“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 09 May 2022. Ibom Air cannot in the circumstance volunteer to stop operating and will continue normal operations on Monday 09 May 2022 and beyond.

Making clarification on the reason for agreeing to the decision of AON, Ibom Air claimed its  inclusion as “signatory” to the statement released by Airline Operators was  derived from its active and committed membership of the AON.The airline said, “Notwithstanding the signatory, we identify very strongly with our AON colleagues and will participate in every effort to resolve this frightening situation as soon as possible in the interest of our business, our customers, our stakeholders and our country.

The airline also commended AON for the collective efforts to secure a sustainable fuel pricing regime for the airlines.

  Senator Hadi Sirika, Minister of Aviation in a statement signed by his Special Assistant on Public Affairs, James Odaudu, has pleaded with AON consider negotiation instead of flight disruption.

The Minister urged the operators to consider the multiplier effect of shutting down operations, on Nigerians and global travelers, in taking their business-informed decisions and actions. 

The Aviation Minister said, “Unfortunately the issue of fuel supply is not within the purview of the Ministry and so the much it can do in the present situation is to engage with agencies, institutions and individuals in positions to provide succour to the airlines. This is already being done by the relevant team led by the Minister. 

 While acknowledging that the airline operators are in the business to make profits Sirika urged them to explore negotiation and other means of resolving the challenge.