Air passengers were yesterday stranded at airports across the country as domestic airlines ran short of aviation fuel to carry out scheduled flight operations.
While most of the passengers were delayed for several hours before takeoff in Lagos, others in Port Harcourt, Abuja were not so lucky as their flights were cancelled after delays.
The development has, however, left some passengers with no choice than to travel by road, while calling on the authorities to address aviation fuel scarcity.
The Guardian learnt that the lingering fuel scarcity bit harder at the weekend, with airlines getting about 30 per cent of daily volume requirement, leading to mass cancellation of flights on Saturday.
A passenger, Fred Ndukwe told The Guardian that his flight from Lagos to Owerri was cancelled, across airlines.
Ndukwe said: “I had booked with my most preferred airline for Owerri earlier. In fairness to them, they alerted me early on Saturday that due to fuel issue, they would not fly. I tried my luck with another airline at the General Aviation Terminal (GAT), Lagos. They promised to fly; only to delay for several hours and at nightfall, they said the flight had been cancelled. Something terrible is really going on.”
Another passenger on Dana Air, Abuja-Lagos flight, Dr. Ismail Ibrahim, said his flight was cancelled on Saturday and he was still stranded at the domestic terminal of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, as at 3:00 pm yesterday.
Dr. Tunde Abayomi, who was also stranded in Abuja, urged the Federal Government to show greater interest in the air transport sector, given its importance.
The Spokesperson of Dana Air, Kingsley Ezenwa, said that the delay was due to the scarcity of aviation fuel, though denied the cancellation of flights.
Arik Air, which operates the largest fleet-size and over 100 daily flights daily apologised to passengers to bear with them in the current circumstance.
The Spokesman of the airlines, Banji Ola, confirmed that Arik was experiencing a larger impact of this scarcity compared to other airlines.
Ola said: “The airline requires a daily supply of approximately 500,000 liters of Jet-A1 for its operations but it has been getting between 180,000 and 200,000 over the past 10 days, which has severely impacted the scheduled flight operations.
“The airline is appealing for the understanding of its passengers who have been booked to travel on its flights. Passengers are also advised to always visit the airline’s website for information about their flights,” Ola said.
Aviation fuel marketer, Olasimbo Betiku, explained that the scarcity was due to the lingering problem of foreign exchange hike and scarcity of dollar to import sufficient aviation fuel into the country.
Betiku said that it was unfortunate that the government had not started refining the product at Kaduna and Port Harcourt refineries as promised some months ago, otherwise, Nigeria would not be talking of aviation fuel scarcity by now.
Aviation fuel, otherwise called Jet-A1, is a specialised type of petroleum-based fuel used to power aircraft and normally accounts for over 30 per cent of operation cost of an airline.
Jet-A1 is 100 per cent imported into Nigeria and subject to fluctuations in the foreign exchange market.