Senate proposes airlines’ bailout, operators insist on flights suspension

The Senate Committee on Aviation, on Tuesday, met the Airline Operators of Nigeria over the threat by domestic airlines to suspend flight operations nationwide from Thursday due to high cost of Jet A1, also known as aviation fuel.

The meeting with the Senate came about 24 hours after the House of Representatives met with the airline operators for the second time over the fuel crisis in the aviation sector.

The House had on Monday met with the Federal Government officials, airline operators and oil marketers, with the stakeholders agreeing that Jet A1 should be sold at N500 per litre for three days, as against the current N670, pending the adoption of a transparent mechanism for price determination

At the second investigative hearing by the House, the AON had disclosed that at the current price of N670 per litre, a seat in the Economy Class should go for about N120,000, threatening to suspend flight operations in the next three days (by Thursday) as the airlines cannot continue to subsidise flights any longer.

On Tuesday, the Chairman of the AON, Abdulmunaf Sarina, repeated the threat, declaring that if nothing was done to address the crisis, airlines would suspend flight operations by Friday morning.

Sarina stated that the airlines could not continue to cope with the high cost of operation worsened by upsurge in the price of aviation fuel.

He said, “Based on the cost component of airline operation in Nigeria today, the actual price for a ticket of one-hour flight is N150,000, which is being subsidised to N50,000 per passenger. We are overburdened by this ticket subsidy and heavily indebted to banks, with consequences of running out of business if required actions are not taken.”

The Chairman of the committee, Senator Smart Adeyemi, however, appealed to the operators to give the Senate, and the National Assembly by extension, a few days to wade into the matter through interface with the relevant stakeholders on the government side.

Adeyemi said the issue would be raised on the floor of the Senate during plenary on Wednesday to seek Federal Government bailouts for the operators.

The lawmaker said, “Your threat to stop flying from Friday this week is too tough an order. Aviation is life and there is no way the Senate and the government generally will allow such to happen. Your complaints are genuine and will surely be looked into.

“The Senate will intervene to ensure that the airline operators carry out their activities with minimal pain. The Senate President and all senators are very worried by the threat from the operators and the Senate will not keep quiet over the matter.

“We will ensure that the Executive does the needful to release bail out to the airline operators. It pays all of us to make the aviation sector very robust.

“Please, give us some time for the Senate to see what we can achieve. So, we want you to extend your ultimatum to down tools. We will ensure that you get the required palliative so that there won’t be a crisis.”

Article first published on the Punch Website

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