Travel crisis deepens as airlines reschedule flights ‘indefinitely’

Aviation fuel scarcity and the high cost of the commodity are taking a huge toll on airlines, travelers, and economic activities.

The past two weeks had been hectic for Nigerian airlines and travelers. The scarcity of aviation fuel, otherwise known as Jet A1 had put the domestic aviation industry in total disarray.

Consequently, they are unable to cope with the price as Jet A1 skyrocketed to between N590 and N600 per litre from N200 in less than three months.

Just on Monday, virtually all the carriers through a public announcer at the domestic wings of the Lagos airports announced the ‘indefinite rescheduling’ of the morning flights, leaving scores of passengers stranded at many of the airports across the country.


Some stranded passengers at Lagos airport

It was learn’t that the decision to announce ‘indefinite flight rescheduling’ was to forestall irate passengers causing chaos which normally follows whenever there is a disruption in flight operations.

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Air Peace was seen trying to clear its backlog of flights by asking customers to board their delayed flights.

Dana Air was said to have minimal flight delays as it operated many of its morning flights while the afternoon flights were expected to operate. Many other carriers had their schedules disrupted.

When our correspondent visited the two domestic terminals of the Lagos airport, passengers were seen making alternative arrangements to travel by road. They were not sure when their flights would be.

Some of them who spoke to Aviation Metric said they were heading home, hinting that they could not continue to wait at the airport for ‘non-existent’ flights.

The hike in aviation fuel price had led to a spike in the cost of the operations of airlines.

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This is just as the airlines under the aegis of the Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) last week said with the price of aviation fuel increasing from N190 to N670 per litre, they might be forced to suspend flights nationwide.

The House had summoned the Group Managing Director, Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited, Mele Kyari; Director-General, Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, Capt. Nuhu Musa; marketers and airline operators to the meeting over the current scarcity of aviation fuel.

Considering that the cost of fuel accounts for about 40% of the operational cost of most airlines, the colossal rise in the price of the product by over 300% within one year in Nigeria has equally increased the operational cost astronomically.

In the light of this, airlines’ feasibility studies and financial projections are greatly threatened thereby putting the airlines in a dangerous and difficult financial position.

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With the above scenario, not a few are of the view that with aviation fuel skyrocketing to a new high of over N600 or a little less depending on the venue of purchase, the sector future hangs in the balance.


An aircraft re-fuels at an airport

Aviation fuel costs more in Nigeria and other oil-producing countries than their counterparts that do not produce oil.

For instance, in Nigeria, despite the seeming stability in the lifting of aviation fuel across the country before now and the deregulation of the commodity, JET A1 has hit an all-time high of N550 and N600 per litre.


Wole Shadare