Nigerians travelling by air across the country face long hours of tortuous delay and outright cancellation of flights as the airline service industry has again been thrown into yet another bout of aviation fuel scarcity.
This is the third time the airlines are experiencing scarcity of aviation fuel (JET A1) in six months, beginning in February this year. The last was in May, shortly after the federal government removed subsidy on the premium motor spirit, but the government decision had no link to the shortage of JET A1.
LEADERSHIP gathered that many flights were cancelled at the weekend beginning on Friday and the trend will continue in the week until supply of the JET A1 improves.
An airport source said out of four flights scheduled for Saturday, First Nation Airways cancelled two, while Aerocontractors cancelled four flights.
The source, who is an airline staff, however hinted that Med-View was able to put up a fairer performance, perhaps due to plenty of fuel already in storage of the airline before the shortfall.
“The trend is likely to continue on Monday (today) through the week because there has not any sign of improvement in the supply of fuel and even those airlines that did well this weekend are not likely to be able to maintain the tempo this week as they too would have run short of fuel,” the source said.
Nigeria’s biggest carrier, Arik Air at weekend said the situation was critical in Lagos and Abuja, its operational hubs, warning that if the situation was not addressed as a priority by the marketers, more flights could be delayed or cancelled.
Arik Air is Nigeria’s the largest consumer of aviation fuel, operating more than 120 daily flights, averaging around 8,500 passengers, with its daily fuel requirement put at about 500,000 litres.
“This means that Arik Air will be most affected by the scarcity and delay in marketers to source and deliver fuel to the airlines,” the airline hinted in a statement issued in warning to air travellers.
This also means that half of the airline’s passengers could experience cancelled flights in the next couple of day while the scarcity of the JET A1 lasted.
“The airline has therefore appealed for the understanding of passengers as it grapples with the JET A1 scarcity. Where flights are likely to be delayed, the airline will notify passengers through SMS. In case of flight being cancelled due to limited supply of fuel by marketers, passengers will be accommodated on first available alternative flight at no cost,” the airline spokesman, Ola Adebanji said in the statement.
Also, Dana Air’s accountable manager, Mr Obi Mbanuzuo, said delays due to shortage in fuel supply has not helped its flight services to the flying public and regret the inconveniences caused.
“The recent delays have not really helped our desire and commitment to take our passengers to their destinations on schedule,” he lamented.
Meanwhile, an aviation industry think tank, Group Captain John Ojikutu (rtd) has called for a combined efforts of the airliners to repair the pipelines that bridge aviation fuel from Ejigbo and Mosimi depots to the Murtala Mohammed Airport (MMA) where about 70 per cent of the product is consumed could bring an end to the incessant scarcity of the JET A1.
A lead member of the Aviation Round Table (ART), a forum of aviation industry think tank, and a former Murtala Mohammed Airport (MMA) commandant, Ojikutu, who is currently the principal consultant at the Centurion Securities pointed at a cabal in the supply chain and maintained that airlines could build a lasting bond with those who own the tankers and the importers of aviation fuel, while stopping some owners of defunct airlines with airline operation licence (AOL) that have no aircraft flying but still have access to fuel with the marketers and sell at ridiculous price to operating airlines.
He said just as the marketers are not sincere, the airlines are equally guilty.
He said, “There have been evidence that some marketers were selling kerosene as JET-A1, especially where there have been no sufficient established specifications for JET-A1 by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA). Kerosene and JET-A1 are both cheaper to import than PMS. It cannot be a problem of foreign exchange for as long as importers of other petroleum products are not complaining. What is happening is the work of the cabal in the industry.
“It has been suggested severally that the airlines could repair the pipelines that bridge fuel from Ejigbo and Mosimi to MMA airport that consumes 70 per cent of the aviation fuel if NNPC is not willing to do it. The aim is to reduce d cost of bridging the supply with hundreds of tankers and the cost of demurrage on them at the airports. These are additional cost to the cost of aviation fuel. Unfortunately, these tankers owners are very powerful with their allies in government.
“The cabals are behind the reason why the pipelines that got damaged since 1992 are not repaired and that is a reason why the railway line project by Oando to transport fuel from Apapa to other parts of the country may not come on stream.
“Unfortunately too, it seems to me that some airline operators have some unseen hands in the mess; they pretend to be helpless but their voices are not loud. They go talk to government officials in low voices and they all pretend they have no solutions to the problem.”
Source : Leadership