By Chinedu Eze
Nigeria’s major carrier, Arik Air has warned that air travel may be crippled by the increasing prices of aviation fuel, known as Jet A1, which has recorded over 35 per cent increase in the last four weeks.
The airline has therefore alerted air travelers that there was severe scarcity of the product as the prices continued to increase.
The airline said the scarcity became evident few days ago when oil marketers started rationing the supply of the product to the airlines and explained they had limited stock at the depots.
“The situation is critical in Lagos and Abuja, the operational hubs of Arik Air and the airline has warned that if the situation is not addressed as a priority by the marketers, more flights could be delayed or cancelled,” the airline said in a statement signed by its spokesman, Adebanji Ola.
He said the airline, which was the largest consumer of aviation fuel in Nigeria as it operates more than 120 daily flights and its daily fuel requirement was about 500,000 liters.
“This means that Arik Air will be most affected by the scarcity and delay in marketers to source and deliver fuel to the airlines. The airline has therefore appealed for the understanding of passengers as it grapples with the Jet A1 scarcity.
“Where flights are likely to be delayed, the airline will notify passengers through SMS. In case of flight being cancelled due to limited supply of fuel by marketers, passengers will be accommodated on first available alternative flight at no cost,” the airline said.
The scarcity of aviation fuel has become a continuum since last year when the value of the nation’s currency began to tumble against international currencies and spiralled the prices of imported goods, including Jet A1. Early last month airline operators had urged passengers to expect more delays or cancelled flights as scarcity of aviation fuel bit harder, adding that scheduled operation may stop unless more products were delivered as quickly as possible.
It has been estimated that domestic airlines may be losing over N500 million daily as the biting scarcity of aviation fuel forces airlines to cancel flights as the product was rationed by oil marketers.
Buoyed by high cost of importation and arbitrary pricing by marketers, the cost of aviation fuel has become too exorbitant and it is feared that it could result in grounding of the operation of some airlines, if the cost of the product is not urgently reviewed downwards.
The airlines have said if the price of aviation fuel continues to stay at the present average price of N140 and above per litre in the next few weeks they would stop operation and ground their fleet.
The airlines said the market had depleted by about 50 per cent from last year, pointing out that further increase in fares to reflect the high price of aviation fuel may reduce passenger traffic to less than 40 per cent.
Prices of the product can only be checked or reviewed downwards when Nigeria begins to refine the product locally or the naira gains value against international currencies.