RAYMOND, Maine — Rapidly increasing costs of jet fuels and gases caused The Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON), the Nigerian government, to issue orders suspending all local airline operations throughout the country. However, despite the airlines’ economic burdens, AON halted the suspension of flights due to the benefits provided by continuing operations, including job continuations, duties and obligations to investors.
Airline Issues in Nigeria
The government of Nigeria, consumer protection groups, such as the Consumer Protection Council (CPC) and the public pressured AON into continuing airline operations. The cost of jet fuels in Nigeria has soared to more than $1.70 per liter, which airlines must pay upfront. Most airplanes require 100,000+ liters of fuel, if not 300,000, and the increased prices are forcing the AON to increase airfare to $289 for a one-way, one-hour flight, according to Al Jazeera. The “astronomical” price increases prompted AON to force a shutdown that was supposed to begin on May 9, 2022. Still, the public’s reliance on air transportation forced the AON to reconsider and suspend the grounding of flights.
This planned suspension was not the first time Nigeria has shut down operations. Nigerian airlines shut down in 2016 due to fuel shortages and the country’s immense debts. Last time around, in 2016, there was not as much pressure from the public. Still, many have since realized their dependence on airplanes for simple transportation. The AON grounded flights, putting thousands of jobs at risk, similar to the situation in 2016.
There are more than 2,000 workers in danger of losing their jobs over the potential suspension of flights. Nigerian airlines have 20 airports, 23 active local/domestic airlines, 554 pilots, 913 engineers and 1,700 cabin workers. In Nigeria’s already weakened economy, all income matters, which none of these airline workers would receive should Nigerian airlines suspend their operations.
Already Weakened Economy Making Matters Worse
In 2020, Nigeria underwent its worst economic recession in at least two decades. Nigeria’s economy relies heavily on the export of crude oil. Oil production and exportation account for 80% of Nigeria’s economy and Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and one-third of the country’s banking infrastructure. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the rapid oil price increase and demand changes hit Nigeria badly. The country refines very little of what it exports, so it must pay for outside jet fuels instead of using its own.
With such a dependence on oil and not a diversified economy, it is unsurprising that 40% of Nigerians live in poverty and millions more are easily susceptible to falling beneath the poverty line. Saving any funds they can, Nigerians have found the usage of airplanes invaluable and they provide jobs to Nigerians not strictly in the oil production sector. Diversified economies produce more jobs and can lessen poverty rates, which Nigeria greatly needs and the assistance of the airline industry in creating this diversity is incalculable.
Nigeria’s economy lacks movement and upward mobility because of its dependence on oil. High inflation rates are also responsible for many Nigerians falling into poverty, according to the World Bank. Despite the increased prices, Nigerians are determined to use the airlines as they are the cheapest, safest and easiest option for travel domestically.
Importance of Continuing Airline Operations
Travel by any other mode of transportation is not as safe in Nigeria. Nigerian airlines provide security and a safe environment for easy travel. Still, travel by highway or walking is not as regulated. There are constant fears of kidnapping for ransom, especially in the oil-rich areas of Nigeria. Nigerian airlines provide safe spaces for travel for both international and domestic flights. Local flights are most important for Nigerians as they struggle to travel safely.
Air travel increased 43% in 2021, from about 4.25 million passengers traveling domestically in 2018. Operating costs have already caused the prices of airplane travel to grow 95%, with an expected total 100% increase to come soon. Overall, Nigerian airlines provide countless jobs that diversify the economy. The increased prices might leave the government no choice but to force Nigerians to pay anywhere between $1-3 million in taxes due to the increasing oil prices.
The assistance of the Nigerian airlines is devastatingly critical as most Nigerians depend on airplane travel. Countless Nigerians lose income due to the unsafe travel conditions on the road. The willingness of the public to pay for the increased prices shows more dedication to airplane travel than the government expected. AON’s continuation of airplane travel allows workers to maintain their work schedules without finding new modes of transportation and can continue supporting the airlines in their economic difficulties.
– Clara Mulvihill
Photo: Wikimedia Commons