A fuel shortage is impacting operations at O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, South Africa and have forced United Airlines to cancel flights two days in a row.
Fuel Shortage Impact United Airlines In Johannesburg
Passengers scheduled to travel from Newark to Johannesburg yesterday and today have found their flight cancelled, with the following explanation:
We’re sorry to let you know that your flight has been canceled because of an airport-wide fuel shortage at Johannesburg Airport. We are closely monitoring the situation and we will resume operations as soon as possible.
Indeed, recent flooding in South Africa has impacted road and rail networks, leading to critical shortages at O.R. Tambo International Airport and other major airports in the region. In the province of KwaZulu-Natal, which includes the port city of Durban, over 300 were killed from flooding and 7,000 displaced from their homes. While crews are working around the clock to repair rails and roads, the supply line disruption could continue for several days.
Meanwhile, demand for jet fuel is surging and the war in Ukraine has led to rising prices and supply uncertainty.
While reaching South Africa is not a problem, United does not want to send aircraft and crews to JNB only to have them stuck and unable to return.
This is not unique to United. Malawi Airlines noted:
“…The payload for our Johannesburg flight was heavily affected due to the return fuel uplift. Consequently, the passenger, baggage, and cargo load uplift was restricted/reduced to 70 percent of the aircraft’s capacity due to weight limitation.”
Other fossil fuels are facing critical shortages as well. The war in Ukraine and shortages in natural gas have pushed demand for electricity from coal to an all-time high. As Bloomberg notes:
In 2021, the world generated more electricity from coal than ever before, with an increase of 9% from the previous year, according to the International Energy Agency. For 2022, total coal consumption — for generating power, making steel and other industrial uses — is expected to rise by almost 2% to a record of just above 8 billion metric tons and remain there through at least 2024.
While the immediate cause of South Africa’s fueling woes were heavy storms and an aging infrastructure system, growing reliance on fossil fuels is placing pressure on global supply.
United Airlines has cancelled its flights between Johannesburg and Newark for the last couple days, blaming a jet fuel shortage. Meanwhile, South Africa is working to restore infrastructure necessary to transport fuel after a heavy rainfall officials called “one of the worst weather storms in the history of our country.”