From Suleiman Idris, Lagos
The management of Kaduna base airline, Skypower Express Airlines has attributed the scarcity of Jet A1 ( aviation fuel) in the Nigerian domestic market for been the cause behind the delay in the return airlift of its pilgrims from Saudi Arabia to Nigeria, contrary to insinuations.
Last week, the commodity was hard to come by in major airports like Lagos, Abuja and Kano, a situation our correspondent discovered began last Monday and persist throughout the week.
The situation affected the outbound flight of Skypower Express Airlines, a charter operator in the hajj exercise whose passengers were stationed in Jeddah airport for the return flight.
At least, about 265 pilgrims of the carrier were delayed at Saudi Arabia airport as the airline could not purchase fuel in Nigeria.
However, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Skypower Express Airlines Capt. Muhammed Joji, did confirmed the situation via a telephone conversation with our correspondent.
He noted that attempts were made to buy the aircraft fuel in Lagos and Kano but failed but that the airline eventually bought the product at very exorbitant rate, which enabled the airline to continue with the second leg of the exercise.
He explained that at least, 265 pilgrims of the Carrier were airlifted out of Saudi Arabia on Thursday night with a Boring 777 aircraft leased from a local operator.
He further affirmed that another batch of 265 pilgrims were airlifted back to Nigeria on Saturday.
He lamented that the scarcity of the product in the local scene was affecting flight operations in the industry and called on the government to make the product available to airlines.
Joji said: ‘It is unfortunate that we don’t have fuel anywhere in Nigeria. We tried to get in Lagos, Kano and other airports, but we couldn’t get any. This unfortunately, affected the airlift of our pilgrims back to Nigeria from Saudi Arabia.
‘But, the issue has been resolved as we were able to bring in 265 pilgrims on Friday morning with a B777 aircraft. The aircraft also returned and brought back the same number of our pilgrims on Saturday.
He bemoaned the ugly scenerio saying that “I think this is sabotage. How can a country have three refineries and can’t get aviation fuel to supply to its airlines. Apart from local operators, other foreign carriers operating into Nigeria are equally faced with the same challenge. It’s high time we settled this issue one and for all.’
Our reporter had gathered from sources in Saudi Arabia that about 275 pilgrims of Skypower Express Airlines were stranded at the King Abdulaziz International Airport, Jeddah without immediate solution to their challenge.