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Passengers Stranded As Aviation Fuel Scarcity Worsens

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Tuesday, May 17th, 2016
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the scarcity of aviation fuel affecting the aviation industry grew worse on Monday as many air travellers across the country endured varying degrees of hardship due to flight cancellations.

From airport terminals in Lagos, Abuja, Enugu, Warri, Owerri, Port Harcourt, Asaba and in the North, our correspondent gathered that virtually all the airlines cancelled one or more flights on Monday due to the unavailability of Jet-A1.

Some of the airlines, which were due to operate two or more flights to some destinations, cancelled the early flights and merged all into one flight for the day.

The rescheduled flights later took off in the evening, while many spill over passengers were left unattended.

The result was that many passengers had to wait for several hours at the terminals for boarding to be announced, only to be told much later in the day that their flights had been cancelled.

At the Murtala Muhammed Airport Terminal 2, our correspondent observed that passengers who booked Aero Contractors, Dana Air and Azman Airline flights were the most affected.

At about 6.00pm, none of the three airlines had operated any flight out of the terminal for the day. Azman Airline only announced boarding for its Kano flight at about 6.30pm.

There were several announcements of delays and rescheduling “due to unavailability of aviation fuel.”

Specifically, a Dana flight that was scheduled to depart for Uyo by 9am was initially rescheduled to 1.25pm before its cancellation was announced at about 4pm.

Yet, another Dana flight scheduled to depart for Abuja by 11am was rescheduled to 1.25pm. Boarding did not start until 4.30pm. Interestingly, at about 6.15pm, another delay of 45 minutes was announced for the same flight.

However, while First Nation and Medview Airlines also cancelled some flights to other destinations, they both managed one flight each out of the MMA2 to Abuja at about 6pm.

When our correspondent visited the General Aviation Terminal of the domestic wing of Lagos airport at about 4.45pm, hordes of passengers were seen waiting anxiously for their boarding announcements.

Arik Air, which operated most of its flights, had long queues of desperate passengers.

While observing the situation, Air Peace announced the cancellation of five flights to Port Harcourt, Abuja, Owerri, Enugu and another one to Abuja, all at the same time.

One of the affected passengers, who gave his name simply as Obi, lamented the colossal loss the flight cancellations meant to him.

“I am due in Abuja to seal a multi-million naira business deal with my foreign partners. And they are to depart tomorrow,” he said.

A customer service official of Air Peace told our correspondent that the situation was beyond the control of the airline, adding, “We just cannot help the situation.”

The situation was not different in Abuja. An intending passenger of Dana Air, who was to fly to Lagos, had his morning flight reschedule to 22.15hrs.

Speaking on the situation, a top official of one of the airlines, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the government needed to intervene as quickly as possible in order to ensure that the airlines got supplies of aviation fuel.

He opined that if this was not done, the attendant effect on businesses would be too huge for the Nigerian economy.

Arik Air later alerted its passengers to the severity of the scarcity of aviation fuel and how the situation was affecting its operations.

In a statement by its Communications Manager, Adebanji Ola, the airline noted that the scarcity, which has been on and off in the past few weeks, had reached an alarming proportion as oil marketers were finding it difficult to cope with the requirements of the carrier.

According to the statement, the scarcity is pronounced in the Lagos and Abuja hubs, where a number of flights had to be delayed, while awaiting supply of fuel, and some cancelled due to untimely delivery by marketers.

Ola added, “Due to the inability of oil marketers to meet our daily fuel requirements, because of the number of local, regional and international flights we operate, our operations are most impacted and passengers inconvenienced.

“We, therefore, appeal for the understanding of our guests as all stakeholders continue to find a lasting solution to the problem.”

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