Anthony Awunor & Ebere Chibuzor
Hundreds of domestic airline passengers were stranded yesterday at the local wing of the Murtala Muhammed Airport MMA2, Lagos. At the departure terminal Thursday air travelers were seen in small crowds, murmuring about their flight delays by one airline or the other.
When The Union arrived at the airport terminal, airline workers were seen appealing to passengers to bear with them claiming that the cause of delay was due scarcity of aviation fuel. Due to the flight delays, several passengers who came to the airport very early Thursday could not travel as scheduled.
The Union reports that no flight was ready for take-off as at 6.a.m as many airlines were yet to get ready for flights just as they were complaining of dearth of aviation fuel. As at 9:30am Dana and Med-view airlines have rescheduled their early morning flights that were billed to take-off by 8am.
Travelers were equally seen sitting helplessly in the overcrowded departure terminal. A passenger who spoke to The Union said she has used the opportunity to do body massage. Identifying herself as Mary, she said,” the massage is good. At least I have cured myself a lot stress. But I didn’t bargain for that. My mission is to travel. Yes the massage is good”, but it’s an additional cost which is absolutely uncalled for”. To calm the nerves of passengers, a particular airline operator distributed snacks and sweets to their passengers. Many of the passengers, did not however, enjoy the snacks as they complained bitterly about the flight delay. Another passenger who identified himself as James said “I don’t need sweet or snacks. “I want to travel. That is my own.”
As the scarcity of petroleum products enter the fifth week, the situation seem to have equally affected the prices of aviation fuel, Jet-A1. The Union gathered that the sudden increase in the price of the aviation fuel and incessant flight delays have 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 were said to have started seeking for fuel in neighboring countries, like Ghana, Togo and elsewhere, thereby depriving the country of huge business. 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 recently 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 few weeks ago 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