Scarcity of aviation fuel hits airlines, disrupts flight operations

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jet-fuel-1Paucity of aviation fuel, known as Jet A1, has hit the Nigerian air transport sector as the product has disappeared in the Federal Capital Territory since the past three days.

However, Lagos Tuesday, witnessed the non-availability of the product, forcing operators to scamper to other cities to fuel their aircraft.
THISDAY learnt that the inadequate supply of the product was already disrupting flight operations, as flights taking off from Abuja or Lagos had to fly first to another city to buy fuel before departing to their original destinations.

Flights travelling to southern airports flew to Port Harcourt first to fuel before flying to Owerri, Warri, Benin or Enugu; while those flying to Abuja, Maiduguri,  flew Jos and other northern cities go to Kano to fuel.
Tuesday, a Lagos-London flight of a local airline had to fly to Kano to fuel before taking off to London, despite fears that the scarcity would continue and may end up grounding air travel in the country.

It was not yet confirmed that the price of the product had increased, but airline officials believe that if the scarcity continued till the end of this week, the prices of the product would inevitably increase and this would be immediately reflected on fares.
Presently, the average price of aviation fuel is between N160 to N170 per litre, depending on the city but this may increase to over N200 per litre was the scarcity continues.

Fuel constitutes about 40 per cent of the total operation cost of airlines; an increase in price of aviation fuel would lead to increase in fares, which is already very high in domestic services, leading to reduction in passenger movement in the country.
An official of a major carrier told THISDAY that the airlines are wishing that the old times of fuel scarcity should not come back because it would slow the progress made after the Dana Air crash in June last year, which gave rise to a lull that almost bankrupted many of the existing airlines.

“For three days now, Jet fuel has been scarce in Abuja and now we are witnessing it in Lagos. In fact, all our flights have to go and get fuel from Port Harcourt or Kano first before flying to designated airport and this is costing us huge resources. We are worried that this may continue and if it does we will have problems on our hands. We hope that government will do something urgently to avert this,” the official said.

Also speaking in an interview, the managing director of IRS Airlines, Mr Yemi Dada, confirmed the scarcity of aviation fuel and urged independent fuel marketers to make the product available so as not to impact negatively on the operations of domestic airlines.

“I can confirm to you that aviation fuel is scarce and it could impact on airline operations if the scarcity persists. Although, the price has not increased, but the product is not available; for now, aviation fuel sells for between N160 and N180 per litre. We are appealing to the fuel marketers to make the product available.”

Air travel fares in Nigeria is said to be the highest in the world as fares on the busy Lagos-Abuja route could go as high as N32,000 at peak periods; but one hour flights in most part of the world cost less than $100 which is about N16.000.
When contacted, a source from a downstream oil company, which markets Jet A1, told THISDAY that he could not understand the cause of the scarcity yet but expressed the hope that it would end soon.

 

Information from This Day was used in this report.