Scarcity of Aviation Fuel Hampers Flight Operations



By Chinedu Eze

Many flights were delayed and few others cancelled at the weekend following the inability of most airlines to receive the volume of aviation fuel, known as Jet A1, they needed for scheduled flights operations.

THISDAY gathered that due to the paucity of the product, oil marketers resorted to rationing the product to airlines, sharing the product at the ramp, from one aircraft to another.

Airlines had positioned their aircraft, hoping the fuel would reach them as the bowsers moved between the airside of the General Aviation Terminal (GAT) to the domestic terminal, known as MMA2 of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos.

An official of one major domestic carriers told THISDAY that the fuel scarcity affected all the airlines’ operations as it caused delays and flight cancellations. He said the situation was beyond the control of what airline management could do.

“So we just ensure that we carry out the important flights to different destinations as we get fuel,” he said.

It was the same scenario at the international wing of the airport. Although most foreign airlines are on contract with oil marketers but more than two weeks ago, the international airlines adopted the strategy to fuel outside Nigeria and top up when they arrive in the country.

On Friday THISDAY learnt that Arik, which at the peak of operation required about 1.2 million litres of fuel for its flights could only source about 700, 000 litres, sometimes less and this impacted on its flights for an airline that operates about 115 flights a day.

Also Dana Air delayed flights on Friday because of inadequate supply of aviation fuel, though it did not cancel any of its flights, according to a source from the airline.

There are fears however that airlines may cut back the amount of fuel needed for each aircraft to operate fully, which includes the fuel to a destination and return and extra fuel, which is referred to as endurance fuel, which is needed in case of emergency or delays due to weather, VIP movement and others.

But spokesman of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Sam Adurogboye said that attempt to cut back the volume of fuel would be akin to committing suicide.

“Let me tell you categorically that the issue of fuel is a no go area because that will be akin to committing suicide. No airline or pilot will allow it to happen; rather, what airlines do when there is no enough fuel is to cut down operations; they reduce their schedule.

“This cannot happen because the aircraft will come down, so unless the pilots agree to commit suicide; that is when they will allow such to happen. The present fuel scarcity is not peculiar to aviation; it is a general problem,” Adurogboye said.