Airlines in the country now resort to buying aviation fuel from neighboring countries as the fuel scarcity bites harder
As the scarcity of petroleum products enter the second week, there are indications that the situation has equally affected the prices of aviation fuel, Jet-A1.
The Union gathered that the sudden increase in the price of the aviation fuel has impacted negatively on the operations of Nigerian airlines and international carriers operating into the country. To beat the high operational costs, both local and international airlines now prefer to refuel in neighboring countries, like Ghana, Togo and elsewhere, thereby depriving the country of huge business.
According to experts, such diversion in airlines could cost Nigeria millions of Naira as most airlines spend over 50 per cent on aviation fuel alone apart from other operational costs. They expressed fear that the cost of flying in the country, may go up any moment if the situation continues unabated.
Meanwhile, one of the domestic airlines which spoke to The Union on condition of anonymity confirmed that the scarcity of Jet A1 is affecting their flight operation as they could not access the fuel easily as usual.
According to the airline representative, “scarcity of Jet A1 is affecting our operations. Am afraid it will not continue like this because it may affect the cost of flying and may even cause delays in our schedules”
To Arik Air, Nigeria’s largest carrier, the situation is the same. As part of control measures, the airline has declared that it would scale down flights following an estimated US$9 million loss due to lack of Jet A1.
The aviation company said the scarcity of aviation fuel has made it scale down 20 per cent of its operations out of over 100 flights daily and alternatively fly to neighbouring West and Central African countries to source to aviation fuel at high rate to sustain its operations.
Arik Air Managing Director, Mr Chris Ndulue had said at the weekend that the airline has put series of contingency plans in place to ensure it does not shut down its operations because of the scarcity of aviation fuel.
Ndulue, who spoke to reporters at the airline‘s headquarters in Lagos, confirmed that Arik Air now flies to Ghana, Cameroon and Benin Republic to source for aviation fuel. He said if the fuel situation does not improve the airline may not operate flights, as the alternate arrangement is costing the airline much money with the attendant inconveniences to passengers. Ndulue said since last Thursday last week when the scarcity of aviation fuel intensified, Arik Air has over stretched its bounds to secure the over 800,000 litres needed for its daily operations.
He said, “For over one week now, aviation fuel scarcity has impacted negatively in our flight operations. It has become very bad that we have to scale down our flights gradually. In the last one week it has become increasingly difficult to sustain our operations owing largely to scarcity of aviation fuel”.
“Getting fuel to fly to our international destinations has become extremely expensive, because we have to source fuel from Kano, Cotonou, Cameroon and Accra to sustain our operations Because if the huge quantity of fuel averaging about 800,000 litres needed daily for our wide body aircraft it becoming very difficult. If the situation does not improve in the coming days, we may not return to normal flight operations” .
“We appeal to passengers for their understanding on account of the inconveniences they are going through arising from the flight disruptions.
“By today, the disruption of flights has reached its lowest ebb forcing us to carry out only 20 per cent of our operations. With the attendant loss of over one million dollars daily the scarcity constitutes additional costs to our operations”, Ndulue said.
The Arik Air boss clarified that the short supply of aviation fuel to Arik Air was not borne out of indebtedness to fuel marketers saying that airlines make credit arrangement with their suppliers.
He said “Since last Thursday only one fuel marketer has been consistent with supply of the product . As an airline we have thrown contingency plans around and the marketers are cooperating because of the good relationship.”
Meanwhile, passengers remain stranded at airports across the country as airlines are unable to get aviation fuel to fly their aircraft.
Meanwhile, key petroleum transporters and marketers in the country had on Friday suspended the fuel shipment strike that has caused acute scarcity in the country but declared that the action would resume if government fails to defray the outstanding N200 billion subsidy claims in the next two weeks.
The Federal Government has however, agreed to meet with the marketers on Monday to resolve disputes and dispelled concerns over payment of the outstanding subsidy claims. With the suspension of the strike, fuel tankers are expected to resume shuttle from depots to retail stations to bridge supply gaps and ease out the current scarcity over the weekend.