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More Passengers stranded as aviation fuel scarcity worsens; – First Nation, Air Peace, Dana sing different tune

chris ndulue

THE acute aviation fuel scarcity is still frustrating flights, with helpless passengers bemoaning their plight.

Though some of the airlines claim the situation has improved, ENCOMIUM Weekly’s investigation reveals that flight cancellation, rescheduling and even outright suspension is now rampant at Nigerian airports.

Passengers of Arik Airlines  whom we spoke with on Friday, May 8,2015 at the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Ikeja, Lagos, complained bitterly they missed their flights severally as the aviation fuel scarcity worsens.

“It’s so, so frustrating, though I don’t really blame Arik. It’s not their fault,” a lady who simply identified herself as Stella told our reporters.

“I had to miss an important appointment in Abuja the other day. I didn’t see the reason in rescheduling the flight when I have already booked an appointment for the day,” another aggrieved Arik customer complained.

Some other passengers waiting for their flights to various routes were also apprehensive that Friday afternoon. The reason being that anything could happen.

Meanwhile, Arik Air continued to scale down their local operations with further reduction of their operational aircraft.

For instance, a reliable source told ENCOMIUM Weekly Nigeria’s largest carrier now operates its Owerri-Lagos route with only one aircraft. This leaves passengers with no alternative, if any unforeseen issue arises.

Confronted with the situation on ground, Arik’s spokesman, Mr. Adebanji Ola, explained there has been a measure of improvement and stability in their operational system right now.  Mr. Ola declined further comments on the issue, while insisting they are coping fine.

He also said he wouldn’t know if Arik’s dependence on only an aircraft for its Owerri-Lagos has to do with scarcity of aviation fuel scarcity.

Hit hard by acute scarcity of aviation fuel also called Jet-A1, Arik threatened to suspend her 120 flights a day, which it earlier shrunk by about 20 per cent.   Before the announcement made by their MD/CEO, Mr. Chris Ndulue, scores of its flights were cancelled and rescheduled at will.

But the management now says there is improvement in their flight operation, despite the fact that the fuel scarcity still lingers.

At Aero Contractor’s MMA2 office came a positive report that most of its flights are going on as scheduled. The customer care staff who addressed us on Friday, May 8 announced happily they are adapting fine to the situation.

The lady we spoke with, however, admitted West Africa’s oldest airline had to cancel a whole lot of flights due to the acute scarcity.

“Yes, the problem affects all of us but before we cancel, reschedule a flight, we have to apologise and inform our passengers in good time and make alternative travel plan that suit them.”

Aero, ENCOMIUM Weekly learnt, did cancel many flights as a result of the prevailing situation.  All of these flight disruptions, our checks revealed, have generally affected the cost of air travel. What’s going on is that stranded passengers cause a heavy rush which forces available airlines to adjust their prices based on market forces.

In the light of this, last Friday, Owerri-Lagos passenger paid N33,000! for Aero/Arik Air fare.

But amidst the chaos and flight disruptions in many Nigerian airlines is a rainbow of relief offered by relatively smaller domestic airline operators who have been flying without serious hitches.

For Air Peace, Nigeria’s newest airline, there is no cause for alarm. Speaking with their Business Development Manager, Mr. Tobi (we couldn’t get his full names), we were informed they haven’t cancelled or rescheduled any flight owing to the lingering aviation fuel scarcity. Air Peace which commenced operation on October 21, 2014 with seven aircraft worth N45 billion did, however, admit they occasionally delay flights for unavoidable technical reasons.

First Nation equally has cheery news for air travellers. One of their managers in Abuja (Mr. Ibrahim) told us the scarcity of Jet-A1 does not necessarily affect their flight schedule.

But those doing Abuja-Lagos route have a better deal when compared to Lagos-Abuja bound air travellers.

Whereas the former paid N17,300 for First Nation’s 6 p.m flight, the latter would pay as much as N25,500 that same evening.

A Dana Air Customer Care Executive (Juliet) also told ENCOMIUM Weekly they have no issue as at Saturday, May 9, 2015, though she couldn’t predict the future. She, however, referred us to Dana’s Public Relations Manager, Mr. Samuel Sogbogoro who didn’t attend to us.

Nigeria airlines have been practically grounded by acute scarcity of aviation fuel (Jet-A1) with daily cancellation and rescheduling of flights reaching alarming and uncomfortable stage.  And it appears nothing much has changed as petroleum products are still largely unavailable and unaffordable, despite the truce the Federal Government reached with Major Independent Petroleum Products Marketers Association, a week ago.

The cabal has, for over two weeks, held the nation to ransom, insisting their N200 billion subsidy claim must be paid before restoration of undisrupted petroleum product supply. Their assurances to the Minister of Finance and the Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, last weekend, has not yielded much fruit, with skeletal supply and arbitrary pump price being the order of the day.  This has negatively affected businesses, especially the transport sector and the Small and Medium Scale Enterprises.


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