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Nigerian airlines struggle to keep flying over rising fuel costs

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ABUJA, Nigeria (AP) Nigerian airlines say they are struggling to keep flying because the price of aviation fuel in the West African country has risen by 260%.

The country’s six airlines said they would continue domestic and regional flights thanks to a promise by federal government officials to engage institutions that will provide assistance to airlines to help offset their rising fuel prices that now account for 95% of their operating costs, the airlines said. in a statement Sunday.

Nigerian airline operators had planned to protest against the fuel increase by suspending local and regional flights, but some of the airlines opposed the planned closure.

International crude oil prices have risen 40 percent since the beginning of the year, due to a combination of factors including Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Nigeria, a country of more than 200 million people, is badly affected. Despite being the largest producer of crude oil in Africa, it still imports most of its fuel because there are very few functioning refineries.

Its jet fuel prices have risen so much because it imports 100% of its aviation fuel, which is then transported by road leading to high delivery costs, said Sindy Foster, a Lagos-based aviation expert.

It is also likely to be a foreign exchange issue. We do not have a stable currency and most imports are only accessible by taking currency on the black market, said Foster, a key managing partner at Avaero Capital Partners.

Nigeria has seen a steady and astronomical rise in the price of aviation fuel, or Jet A-1, with a liter currently at 700 naira ($ 1.7) from 190 naira ($ 0.4) at the beginning of the year.

No airline in the world can absorb this kind of sudden shock from such an astronomical rise in such a short period, the airline association said. He said the increase in fuel prices would cause ticket prices to rise by more than 100%, but said such increases could not be fully passed on to passengers who are already experiencing a lot of hardship.

The situation has already forced Nigerian airlines to delay and cancel flights more often.

With the trend of armed gangs kidnapping people traveling by road and train, especially in the troubled northern region, many people are choosing to take planes. The volume of air traffic in the country increased by 43% in 2021, according to the Nigerian statistics agency.

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