Foreign airlines flying to Nigeria have started refueling abroad, to bypass highly priced and increasingly scarce aviation fuel in the country. This is coming on the heels of Arik Air’s suspension of flight operations to all airports across the country due to its inability to secure aviation fuel, also known as JET-A1.
Consequently, hundreds of domestic passengers were stranded all over the country, following the airline’s inability to airlift them to their destinations. At press time, none of Arik’s aircraft had been deployed to any destination in Nigeria, West Africa and other routes.A reliable source, who does not want to be named, told Vanguard that the massive debts of the airline to major oil marketers who regularly supply aviation fuel is partially responsible for the current situation of the airline. Although there are reports that in addition to the airline’s inability to pay for fuel, its insurers in Europe and elsewhere had withdrawn insurance cover from the airline forcing the airline to stop flight operations altogether.
Meanwhile, foreign airlines say that the high cost of aviation fuel in the country is the second blow for airlines in a year that first saw the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, made it almost impossible to for them to repatriate profits from ticket sales as part of moves to prevent further depreciation of the naira. Reuters report said that the crash in the naira since a devaluation in June has led firms who market jet fuel locally, such as Total, Sahara and ConocoPhillips, to double the price to N220 per litre in August, and to as much as N400 this month, quoting an airline executive.
It added that even at the higher costs, marketers’ lack of dollars has made fuel scarce, while some airlines have had aircraft stuck, or were forced to cancel planned journeys, after frantic last-minute calls from ground staff warned there was no fuel available.
Specifically, the report, quoting a spokesperson for Emirates Airline, stated that the Airline has started a detour to Accra, Ghana, to refuel its daily Abuja-bound flight, and has already cut its twice-daily flights to Lagos and Abuja to just one.
According to the report, the move was aided by a substantial drop in Ghana’s jet prices amid tax reform last month. In addition, it stated that Air France-KLM said it had refueled abroad in very exceptional cases by juggling suppliers and stomaching extra costs.
Germany’s Lufthansa, on the other hand, is loading more fuel in Frankfurt for its Lagos flight, where the ground staff doubts their ability to refuel for the final destination of Malabo, the capital of Equatorial Guinea, an executive said. British Airways, the report added, now uses smaller aircraft on its Lagos-London route, as did Air France-KLM.
“It’s an impossible situation. The oil marketers do not want to sign long-term agreements anymore so we have to accept whatever prices they demand. We sell tickets in naira and now they want us to come with dollars,” one airline executive said.
The report disclosed that Spain’s Iberia and United Airlines cancelled their Nigeria services earlier this year, and two local carriers also halted operations, while other international airlines responded by boosting ticket prices within Nigeria, charging its globe-trotting elite as much as $2,000 for an economy class ticket to Europe to cut losses – more than double the cost of a Lagos ticket bought abroad.
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