Airline operators lament perennial shortage of fuel
Apparently worried by the effect of perennial scarcity of aviation fuel in the country, airline operators yesterday cried out to the Federal Government to rekindle interest in addressing the problem.The operators made the call on the heels of fresh hike in the cost of aviation fuel, now in the neighbourhood of N225 per litre.
The fuel shortage, which has gone worse in the last three weeks, accounts for frequent delays and in some cases, outright cancellation of scheduled flight services nationwide.Chairman of the Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON), Capt. Nogie Meggison, said it was high time the Federal Government urgently stepped into the matter, to forestall total collapse of the aviation sector.
Meggison reiterated that the consistent non-availability of the product in the past week for airlines to conduct their operations led to almost 50 per cent cancellation of flights.According to him, “We have been forced to cry out about the perennial problem at this juncture because it continues to put us in a difficult situation to go an extra mile to fulfill our obligations to our esteemed customers in spite of the inconveniences that go with it.
“However, we are at the mercy of the oil marketers and many times our hands are tied such that we are left with no other option than to cancel flights.”It would be recalled that the major oil marketers, saddled with the responsibility of importing aviation fuel, had blamed hike in price of naira to dollar in the parallel market as the bane of the slow importation of Jet-A1 into the country.While the Federal Government last week pledged to intervene by making dollars available to the marketers at interbank market rate, the effect is yet to be felt in airline operations.
The chairman said despite the shortage of Jet A-1, the marketers had been increasing the price consistently to an unbearable point. “Till April this year, I bought Jet A1fuel for N105 a litre. About a month ago, the price jumped to N145. Two weeks later it rose to about N200 a litre. Today the price has skyrocketed above N200 a litre. This has greatly increased our operational cost.
“For instance, considering that the cost of fuel accounts for about 40 per cent of the operational cost of most airlines, the colossal rise in price of the product by over 100 per cent has equally increased the operational cost astronomically. In the light of this, our feasibility studies and financial projections are greatly threatened thereby putting the airlines in a dangerous and difficult financial position.”
The operators noted that while the Federal Government continues to support the importation of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) with exchange rate of N285, aviation fuel marketers should not be left out to help ensure that Jet 1 fuel is available to airlines at affordable price’’.
Meggison appealed to the government to note that the operation of domestic airlines is one of the mainstay and a pivot for any country’s economy as well as a catalyst for recovery of the fragile Nigerian economy. “We are looking forward to the Minister of State for Aviation to come up with a quick fix before the Nigerian airlines are pushed or forced out of business,” he said.