Passengers, Airlines Count Losses as Harmattan, Fuel Scarcity Disrupt Flights

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Chinedu Eze
Airlines and passengers are counting their losses as high cost of aviation fuel and harmattan haze are dealing a heavy blow on the industry right now.
Air ticket prices for domestic flights rose by over 200 per cent since mid December due to high cost of aviation fuel and high passenger traffic due to rush for the Christmas holiday.

As some airlines cancelled and delayed flights due to fuel scarcity passengers missed business engagements. Then few days after Christmas, harmattan haze set in, leading to more cancellation of flights.

For instance, on December 27, more than 90 per cent of flights were cancelled, thus further frustrating air travellers, many of whom could not contemplate road trips which is fraught with security fears and bad roads.

Consequently, airlines and passengers are losing resources to harmattan haze due to flight disruptions. THISDAY learnt that Arik Air’s New York flight was cancelled on December 27 due to bad weather and on the following day the passengers, who would have travelled resolved and blocked the airline’s counters at the International Terminal of Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos.

On the domestic travel, many passengers took the cancellations with calmness, while others complained that they should have been informed earlier, instead of allowing them to waste time at the airports.

But airline officials who spoke to THISDAY explained that the airlines hoped and waited for improvement in weather reports as the Nigeria Meteorological Agency (NIMET) reeled out weather reports intermittently.

An Arik Air passenger, who is a Consultant Pediatricians, Federal Teaching Hospital, Abakaliki, Dr. Ken Okoro told THISDAY that he was not happy that after waiting for several hours at the airport the flight was eventually cancelled.

“Nobody can question weather issues, but they should have told us about the bad weather earlier, but after waiting for several hours at the airport, the flight was cancelled,” he said.

Airlines attributed the high prices of tickets to the high prices of aviation fuel, which go from N240 to N310 per litre compared with N110 about two years ago.

During the Yuletide Lagos to Jos ticket was going for about N37,500, while Abuja to Ilorin was going for about N50, 000 and Abuja to Asaba was going for about N35,000 to N40,000.

The CEO of Medview Airline, Alhaji Muneer Bankole said fares were high because of the scarcity and high cost of aviation fuel.

“I don’t know why we are blessed with oil and we are still going out to import it and we end up paying the marketer N250, N270 per litre of aviation fuel. This is unexpected. And this goes into the cost of the tickets we are selling. In the past we sell tickets at N10, 000, N15, 000 but it has gone up to N40, 000, N50, 000 and N65, 000. Who bears the brunt? It is the customer.
Bankole pleaded with the customers to understand the circumstances under which the airlines are operating, noting that without passing the high cost to the passengers, the airline would become bankrupt and go under eventually.

“The fare has been increased; you put everything on your cost. We used to buy fuel at N106, so definitely the fares have to double or triple. Check the fare of every airline, Lagos-Yola what it used to be, N20, 000 plus, it can be N65, 000 now. People have to fly and the government needs to help, that is why you can see the challenges, people need to move and it is when people move that the economy is working,” Bankole also said.