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Travellers groan as fuel scarcity causes flight delays, cancellations

By Chika Goodluck-Ogazi
08 May 2015   |   12:10 am
The scarcity of aviation fuel, otherwise known as JET A1, has no doubt caused a lot of pains not only to the passengers in terms of flight delays and cancellations, but as well the financial lost of the airlines and service providers in the sector.

Stranded passengers at Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos

The scarcity of aviation fuel, otherwise known as JET A1, has no doubt caused a lot of pains not only to the passengers in terms of flight delays and cancellations, but as well the financial lost of the airlines and service providers in the sector.

Apparently, virtually all the airports in the country are facing this challenge of not having enough aircraft on ground to lift passengers, especially the major airports like Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos and Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja where hundreds of travellers were stranded over the last weekend. Consequently, many passengers who had travelled outside their stations are experiencing difficulties in returning, as some airlines, which managed to operate, ended up having their passengers delayed for hours.

While some airlines cancelled their flights outright. The recurring scarcity and high price of aviation fuel notwithstanding have been a source of concern to airlines and the authorities of aviation industry, as both challenges, affect the end result of local airlines in Nigeria.

Meanwhile, many of the stranded passengers at the various airports had to carry their luggage to return home or seek alternative means of getting to their destinations.

However, the chaos was more noticeable in Abuja and Lagos airports where you have the highest number of passengers almost indulging in fight with airlines officials for informing them that their flights had been cancelled or delayed.

Some of the domestic airline like Aero Contractors had to cancel some flights; namely NG 129, 131 and 135, out of Lagos and NG 134, out of Abuja because of lack of aviation fuel.

According to the airline, all attempts by the management and staff to secure fuel from the suppliers failed, hence the inevitable and unfortunate option was to cancel the four flights.

Over the last few weeks the supply of aviation fuel has been very erratic, leading to flight delays and sometimes cancellations. It is common knowledge that last week was also hectic for most commuters in the nation as a result of zero supply of petrol.

“We note with a heavy heart the reaction of our esteemed customers to the unfortunate situation and regret the inconveniences suffered by them. We apologize to our customers for this and urge those involved to contact us for a refund or rebooking of flights at no extra charge”, it stated.

“Aero will always act in the best interest of the passengers, flying them from point to point, in a peaceful and conducive environment and of the highest standard of service”, Aero added.

Also, Arik Air, one of the domestic airlines in Nigeria has disclosed that the recent flight delays and cancellations being experienced by the carrier’s passengers in the last few days have been attributed to the general scarcity of aviation fuel (Jet A1) in Lagos.

According to the airline, there has been short supply of the product in Lagos and this has led to rationing by the petroleum product marketers.  It added that signs of the scarcity started manifesting on Thursday, April 23, 2015 when marketers were unable to meet the demands of the airlines, especially Arik Air which by volume of its operations requires a daily supply of between 600,000 and 800,000 liters of aviation fuel.

The scarcity has impacted negatively on Arik Air’s operations, as flights have to be delayed or canceled in cases where the destination airport has no airfield lighting, said Arik.

In some other cases, flights were diverted to other airports outside Lagos where the product was readily available. On Friday, it noted that Arik Air’s flight to London Heathrow had to go via Accra to take fuel, Adding that last Saturday, the same London flight had to go to Cotonou, Benin Republic first to fuel the aircraft, before coming back to Lagos for the outbound flight to Heathrow.

In the case of the Johannesburg flight of Friday, the aircraft had to first go to Port Harcourt where fuel was available before proceeding on the journey.

On Monday, the London flight went via Kano to take fuel. Flying via other stations to take fuel has come at a great cost to Arik Air but the airline had to do this to improve the inconvenience the scarcity may cause its guests.

The airline said it sincerely apologise to its esteemed guests over the inconvenience, which is due to circumstances beyond the control of the airline. The management also appealed to its esteemed guests to bear with the airline at this critical time of fuel scarcity hoping that the situation would be back to normal in a short while.

Meanwhile, the airline said it has taken the decision to temporarily suspend its Dubai service operating from Lagos via Abuja with effect from April 28, 2015.

Arik stated that a challenging wider economic environment in Nigeria as well as increasingly stringent travel regulation controls in the United Arabs Emirates (UAE) has contributed to the decision to suspend the service.

“Arik Air will continue to focus its attention on developing services in Nigeria and West Africa.  Our present domestic network is fully developed with flights to most parts of the country; however we will continue to review our frequencies and fleet deployment strategy to ensure we continually match growing demand within and outside of Nigeria for air travel and also operate efficiently”.

“Arik Air is committed in its pursuit to meet customer’s expectations through operating and investing in state of the art aircraft and puts great emphasis on safety and reliability”, it added.