…more local airlines cancel flights
By LOUIS IBA
The Supply of aviation fuel to Nigeria’s domestic airline industry appear to be getting worse forcing domestic airlines to cancel most scheduled commercial flights, especially out of Lagos and Abuja airports.
Industry sources said more than 60 per cent of flights billed to take off from the Lagos and Abuja airports had to be cancelled, with another 20 per cent rescheduled.
“We could only operate 20 per cent of scheduled flights from the Lagos and Abuja airports,” one airline official told Daily Sun. “We just have to keep apologizing to passengers because these days at the airports, we just watch helplessly as passengers are left stranded with no aircraft available to fly them because we just cannot refuel the aircraft.”
In the last one year, Nigeria’s aviation industry has been experiencing the scarcity of aviation fuel (also known as Jet A1) with leading airlines like Aero Contractors, Arik Air, First Nation, Dana Air, Azman Air, Med-View Airlines, and Air Peace struggling to get fuel to stay in business. Aviation fuel, although is deregulated, has remained scarce as marketers or suppliers say they are finding it hard to source for the requisite foreign exchange (forex) to import in large volumes to meet a growing demand by the domestic airline industry.
Spokesman for Arik Air, Mr. Adebanji Ola, yesterday admitted that the scarcity had “reached an alarming proportion” and that both the airlines doemstic and regional flight operations had been severely hampered.
“The scarcity which has been on and off in the past few weeks has reached an alarming proportion as oil marketers are finding it difficult to cope with the requirements of the airline,” said Ola.
“Air travelers have to be alerted of the severe scarcity of aviation fuel (JET A1). The scarcity is more pronounced in Lagos and Abuja hubs where a number of flights had to be delayed while awaiting supply of fuel and some are cancelled due to untimely delivery by the marketers,” Ola added.
Spokesman for Aero Contractors, Simon Tumba had earlier told journalists that the airline was forced to delay and cancel some of its flight operations due to scarcity of fuel.
“We are experiencing fuel scarcity as our contract fuel suppliers are unable to supply fuel to us due to scarcity of aviation fuel,” Tumba said.
Flight cancellations, which most airlines now resort to , has seen a large number of passengers, some on emergency business or family trips, left frustrated at airports across the country. And with the ugly trend at the domestic airline industry, there is a growing number of prospective air travelers who now opt to go by road than air.
But some other contributory factors to the ongoing flight delays include, inadequate and unserviceable bowsers as well as the trucking distance by marketers who have to go back and forth between the depots and the airports. Ordinarily, there should be fuel supply pipelines linking the depots directly to refuel points at the airports, thus eliminating the need for trucks to freight fuel from depots to airports as is currently being done.
Airline operators in the country are however appealing to the Federal Government to assist resolve the crisis or most of them may declare loses at the end of the year. Fuel accounts for 40 per cent of cost of operations for airlines in Nigeria.