LAGOS, Nov 17 (Reuters) - Nigeria’s largest airline, Arik Air, has reduced the number of domestic flights it offers due to a scarcity of aviation fuel, its spokesman said on Thursday, the latest carrier to limit services due to a currency squeeze in the country.
A sharp fall in the naira this year has made it difficult to get the U.S. dollars needed to buy jet fuel, almost all of which is imported, creating periodic shortages throughout the country.
Nigerian airlines have struggled to remain profitable amid the currency crisis, as passengers pay in naira but fuel suppliers are paid in dollars, and some international carriers have cut or stopped flights to Nigeria because those services are not profitable.
Arik Air spokesman Ola Adebanji said major oil marketers began to ration jet fuel supply to airlines last week, and as a result there had been a “reduction of flights” with immediate effect. He did not say how many flights would be cut.
“This will last until the supply situation improves,” he said.
Arik Air is west Africa’s biggest carrier by passenger numbers, flying to London, New York and Johannesburg, and also has a maintenance contract with Germany’s Lufthansa.
“We are managing the situation to ensure our international flights are not affected,” Adebanji said.
Fuel shortages earlier this year forced domestic airlines to ground some flights, while foreign airlines flying to Nigeria started to refuel abroad because the hard currency shortage meant fuel was only available at a very high price.
Additional reporting by Anamesere Igboeroteonwu; Editing by Susan Fenton