Aviation fuel scarcity causes flight delays, cancellations

Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos08 August 2014, Lagos – Delays and outright cancellation of scheduled flights have nearly paralysed activities in the Nigerian aviation industry in the last two weeks.

As a result, passengers scheduled to travel to domestic and foreign destinations have been expressing dismay at the increasing cases of interruptions to their flight schedules and the consequent toll on their business activities.

Investigations by our correspondent showed that major airlines flying both local and international routes had been affected by the crisis, which was traced to inadequate supply of aviation fuel.

For instance, an Aero cargo flight from Lagos to Abuja was on Sunday delayed for several hours. An eyewitness told our correspondent that officials of the airline explained that the delay was caused by the scarcity of aviation fuel.

A Dana Air flight, which was to take off by 6.30am from Lagos to Uyo last Friday, was also delayed for about 45 minutes. Although no official reason was given for the delay, sources said it might not be unconnected to the issue of aviation fuel scarcity.

On Sunday night, more than 200 New York-bound passengers on Arik Air Flight W3 107 were stranded for over 12 hours at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos. One of the passengers, Mr. Clifford Erondu, said the aircraft was scheduled to leave Lagos around 11.20pm, adding that boarding formalities had been concluded but the aircraft could not take off.

He said the airline’s officials were nowhere to be found for several hours, thereby making the passengers to speculate as to what could have gone amiss with the flight.

“They checked us in and we were waiting from Sunday. None of the staff told us anything. However, on Monday, one of the staff members came to say that the aircraft meant to airlift us had no fuel. The official said aviation fuel was expensive,” Erondu said.

Also, an Abuja-bound Arik flight, which was supposed to take off at noon on Tuesday, had not exited the departure lounge of the Murtala Muhammed Airport Terminal 2 as of 6pm.

An official of Arik Airline, who did not want his name in print, explained that the inability of the carrier to get aviation fuel led to the delays.

But efforts to reach the spokesperson for Arik, Mr. Banji Ola, for comments on the issue proved abortive, as his mobile phone was switched off.

A source at the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, who also did not want to be quoted because he was not authorised to speak on the issue, said that the problem of scarcity of aviation fuel was as a result of some unresolved issue with fuel tanker operators at Apapa.

The source said, “I believe it is as a result of the tanker issue in Apapa. You know the tankers parked there have been causing a lot of gridlock, and since they were ordered to vacate the place, the operators have been having challenges getting fuel.

“However, it is an issue that has to be sorted out between the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation; it really has nothing to do with the NCAA.”

When the coordinating spokesperson for the aviation parastatals, Mr. Yakubu Dati, was contacted to comment on the issue, he did not pick his calls, and a text message sent to his mobile telephone line by our correspondent was not replied.

– The Punch

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