A lack of fuel supplies to Tajikistan’s airlines is reportedly forcing the carriers to perform layovers at foreign terminals during long international flights.
The problem appears to stem from a disagreement over money owed by the airlines to the Fuel Supply Company (OJSC Toplivo-Zapravochnaya Kompaniya or TZK), which occupies a monopoly position on Tajikistan’s aviation fuel market, and is headed by Ilhomdjon Sohibov.
Sohibov said that Tajik Air and Somon Air currently owed his company around 184 million somoni ($20.8 million). On top of that, movements in the value of the national currency have cost TZK around $2 million.
“We buy fuel from Russia, and we pay for it in advance, because that way we save money. But these two companies are absolutely not paying us for the fuel, which causes us substantial harm,” he said.
Sohibov said that 10 days had already elapsed since the company had stopped selling fuel to Somon Air. This means that the issue has been dragging on for almost three weeks now.
Out of necessity, Somon Air is reportedly resorting to making stops in locations like the southern Kazakhstan city of Shymkent and the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek, to fill up. Scrutinizing the history of Somon Air flight on websites like flightradar24.com also reveals other seemingly inexplicable and strange stops, like Ashgabat in Turkmenistan.
“They say that the air fuel in Tajikistan is monopolized. But you see that local airlines can buy air fuel in foreign countries and stock up fuel. Nobody is stopping them, so where do you see the monopoly?” Sohibov is reported to have said.
Neither airline is publicly commenting on the standoff. But nor are they informing passengers in advance of the technical delays being incurred as a result of the necessity to perform fuel stops. Instead, fliers only ever find out that they will have to stop off mid-flight.
On the whole, state-owned Tajik Air has a slightly better time of it as its tanks are large enough to allow for return flights from Dushanbe to Moscow, so it regularly fills up in Russia. (News.tj/Business World Magazine)