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.”
The fuel situation at OR Tambo long predates the KZN floods, but those have been the catalyst to push things over the edge.
Right now, ORT has tank capacity for barely 3 days of operational requirements and stocks were actually down to 1.6 days of requirements at the end of March before the floods. The floods have affected the speed of the supply chain, but the root cause is that there is simply not have enough storage in place for a major international airport like that.
That said, there is fuel rationing ongoing (it is not a total stockout situation) and it surprises me that United doesn’t have a supply contract in place to guarantee them the required amounts. Delta has been getting enough fuel for their departures to the USA, as have pretty much all the other longhaul carriers.
As for Malawi Airlines, they have multiple issues right now because of shortage on both the Malawi and South Africa ends of the route, Their flights have been tech stopping in Harare for the last few days to fuel en route between BLZ and JNB.
Does Sean M have a blog? If, not he should…or at the very least be an airline CEO
No blog, s0rry. But I have been known to run a few airlines in my day. 🙂
Delta paid bigger bribes than United.
Imagine stopping in Zimbabwe to take advantage of their more reliable fuel supplies
Who’s going to be the first one to blame this on Biden…
Naww….blame everything on Putin like he does.
I was in the the foothills of the Himalayas with Xi Jinping, traveling with him, that’s when I traveled 17,000 miles when I was Vice President. I don’t know that for a fact.
Why not just lay this at the feet of white supremacy, without which, there wouldn’t even BE international airports? Or even planes for that matter!
They were better off under apartheid.
What a hateful thing to say. While the dream of the Rainbow Nation remains unfulfilled, and the ANC has turned into a corrupt and feckless parody of itself, NOTHING could be worse than the apartheid era, except, of course, if you were of the very privileged white elites. Poverty declined across all races. For blacks, it declined from 76.8 percent to 64.2 percent; for “coloureds” (or the mixed-race subgroup the SA Government counts as distinct from Black or White), from 56.1 percent to 41.3 percent; for Indians/Asians, from 20.9 percent to 5.9 percent, and for whites from 1.4 percent to 1 percent. In 1996, 58.2 percent of all South African households had access to electricity and 60.8 percent had access to piped water; in 2016 it was 90.3 percent and 83.5 percent, respectively. That said, there is no denying poor governance and bad economic policies of the 2009–2018 administration of President Zuma undermined domestic and foreign investment necessary for growth.
We flew last night from JNB to Istanbul on Turkish Air.
We had to stop in Durban to get fuel (we think that’s the reason).
We were on the ground for about 45 minutes, no one got on or off and the fuel truck pulled up.
Added an extra 3 hours to our trip 🙁
Delta flights will make fuel stops in Accra en route from JNB-ATL effective today.
Should I cancel my Newark flight out of OR Tambo this Monday the 2nd May, or should I wait for a text from United? Just worried the other airlines fill up before I get a cancelled message. Thanks.
Sean will hopefully also answer, but I’m quite concerned your flight will not operate. Lufthansa and SWISS, which had been operating via Windhoek, cancelled their flights today. This problem continues.
Unless United has a significant change of heart with regards to tech stopping for fuel, I don’t see the situation resolving itself in May, let alone by May 2. Make your alternate plans ASAP.