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Nigerian airlines suspend plans to ground flights





Nigeria's airlines have called off a plan to ground domestic flights from Monday in protest at the spiralling cost of aviation fuel.


It has risen almost fourfold this year, which was unsustainable, the Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) said.


The hikes have been triggered principally by Russia's invasion of Ukraine at the end of February.


But the airlines say flights will now go ahead as negotiations with the government are continuing.


The BBC's Joshua Ajayi in Lagos says planes are currently flying on the busy route between Nigeria's biggest city and the capital, Abuja, and passenger numbers are at their usual level.


However, he says some passengers at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja blocked the boarding gate after their flights were delayed. Some of the angry travellers said they had been at the airport since Sunday night to catch flights to various destinations in order to avoid the service disruption due to the announced strike.


There are pictures circulating on social media showing many of the passengers had an uncomfortable night at the airport using chairs as mattresses.


AON said that it had been given some assurances by the government.


It came under pressure from the government, consumer protection bodies and customers to shelve the planned shut down since it was announced on Friday.


The announcement will come as a huge relief to thousands of air travellers whose plans could have been disrupted.


But it is not clear whether the airlines and the Nigerian government will find a lasting solution in their ongoing negotiations.


AON, which represents Nigeria's nine domestic carriers, are complaining about airlines having to subsidise services over the last four months.


There have been many flight cancellations and delays since March, often blamed on a shortage of jet fuel. The price of tickets has also tripled on some routes in recent weeks.


Passengers in Nigeria pay for fares in naira, the local currency that has been devaluing. However, fuel suppliers need to be paid in US dollars.


Despite being Africa's largest oil producer, Nigeria imports almost all its jet fuel.


Flights are often the preferred option for travel these days for those who can afford it because of insecurity on roads across the country.


Kidnapping gangs operate on highways, targeting vehicles and then abducting passengers who they hold for ransom.

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