COVID Concerns Force Nigeria’s Air Peace To Trim Pilot Pool

Air Peace, a Nigerian private airline, has sacked a large number of its pilots following an alleged pay dispute. The carrier attributes this decision wholly to COVID-19 and its inevitable effects on the aviation industry.

Air Peace Nigeria Pilots Terminated
Nigerian private airline sacked at least 70 pilots yesterday. Photo: Air Peace

According to the Nigerian newspaper The Punch, the number of pilots terminated is between 70 and 75. Additionally, salaries for all employees took a hit, dropping up to 40% across the board.

In an official statement, Stanley Olise, spokesperson for Air Peace, described the situation as “painful but rightful decision.”

COVID-19 to blame

The virus forced the closure of Nigerian airspace in March. This left Air Peace and other airlines in the state suffering the consequences. In July, a select few airports resumed operations again. However, at this point, the damage was done.

Spokesperson Olise believes that restructuring costs are the only way airlines can continue to survive in this current climate. After pay cuts were implemented, it seemed that the only way to keep afloat was to terminate some jobs.

He explained, 

“The decision is a reflection of the negative impact of the pandemic on airlines and aviation worldwide. We are in trying times. Even the biggest airlines in Europe, America, Middle East, Asia, Australia and, indeed, Africa, are all either slashing jobs and cutting salaries in order to remain afloat or are shutting down.”

The survival of the airline was regarded as the highest priority, seeing as the airline’s continual existence can create jobs in the future. Also, once the situation goes back to normal, Olise said affected pilots could return to the airline.

Air Peace Pilots Nigeria
Air Peace will allow terminated pilots to return to the airline post-pandemic. Photo: Air Peace

Further, Olise defended the airline’s position. He said that to date, Air Peace had diligently and accurately remunerated its staff.

Air Peace has never, for one day, ever owed salaries to its workers in almost six years of existence, pilots inclusive. Our salaries have always been paid even before the end of the month in the last 5 years. 

An alleged labor strike

Late July, rumors circulated social media stating Air Peace’s pilots wanted to go on strike. However, soon after, the airline’s management shut down these rumors. Spokesperson Olisa stated that “our pilots are not on strike and nothing can warrant such development.”

Newswire Nigeria reported on August 3rd of an alleged labor strike that was to occur on the same day if the pilots were not fired. Mostly, a strike was in the works due to a perceived understanding the pilots would only receive pay cuts temporarily. Further, the pilots were under the impression that should they get fired, they would not receive severance pay.

Air Peace Nigeria Labor Strike Pilots
An alleged labor strike amid pilots was supposedly scheduled for Monday. Photo: Air Peace

The situation began in March during the flight suspension. Reportedly, relationships between the management and pilots deteriorated over the months, finally leading to a termination of the bulk of its pilot pool.

Expanding routes and fleet

Although Air Peace’s employees are suffering from the effects of the pandemic, the airline is functioning as usual. With exceptions involving a reduced flight schedule, the Lagos-based airline still aims to expand to Asia.

Currently, the airline operates within the African continent and to Sharjah in UAE. It hopes to begin services to Israel and India soon.

At the same time, an order for 13 Embraer 195-E2 aircraft remains. The first delivery of the commercial jet will start next month.

Do you think sacking pilots was the right move? Let us know in the comments.