The festering economic crunch in the country has begun to take its toll on the Nigerian aviation industry with the Air Arik, Nigeria’s leading airline being the latest casualty. hundreds of the airlines passengers were stranded at various airports across the country on Tuesday as it cancelled all of its flight for the day and announced the suspension of its flights, pending approval of its aircraft documentation related to insurance renewal.
As a result, its insurers in Europe and elsewhere had withdrawn insurance cover from the airline forcing the airline to stop flight operations altogether.
Also, Foreign airlines flying to Nigeria have started refueling abroad, to bypass highly priced and increasingly scarce aviation fuel in the country. Air Arik had in a statement on Tuesday announcing the temporary suspension of its flight operations said that it was working round the clock “to resolve the necessary documentation, which has been a challenge due to the long weekend holidays due to Ed al Adha”.
According to the airline, “At the present time, all flights of the airline have been cancelled for Tuesday, 13 September 2016 and the airline has stated that it would be getting in touch with passengers to provide an update on rescheduling of their flights.
“This situation is likely to continue for the next few days until such time that NAICOM (National Insurance Commission) approves a waiver on a priority basis for the new insurance company to renew the policy.”
It urged all customers to contact its call centre or visit its website for further details.
The Group CEO, Arik Air, Dr. Michael Arumemi-Ikhide, apologised to the airline’s customers and assured them that it was fully committed to returning to our normal operations and minimise any unfortunate inconvenience to our passengers.
But sources close to the Air Arik said that in addition to the insurance issue, the airline neck deep in debts to major oil marketers who regularly supply aviation fuel, which have made difficult for it to get more supplies.
These are happening at the same that foreign airlines have resorted to neighbouring West African countries to source aviation fuel. This followed the astronomical rise in the cost of aviation fuel in the country.
fome Foreign airlines had earlier in the year suspended operation in the country because of difficulty in sourcing foreign exchange as 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. A car under the Arik Air plane at Calabar Airport.
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 added that Turkish Airlines’ use of smaller planes has added another inconvenience, as passengers complained there is not always space for luggage on the smaller aircraft, delaying it for days.