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 OAO Toplivo-Zapravochnaya Kompaniya, or TZK, which occupies a monopoly position on Tajikistan’s aviation fuel market, and is headed by Ilhomdjon Sohibov, a relative of President Emomali Rahmon by marriage.
SSSR newspaper last week cited Sohibov as saying that Tajik Air and Somon Air currently owe his company around 184 million somoni ($20.8 million). On top of that, movements in the value of the national currency has cost TZK around $2 million, Sohibov said.
“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.
The article was published on May 17, but little seems to have changed since then. Sohibov said in the interview with SSSR that 10 days had already elapsed since 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.
That fact that Somon Air is controlled by another very wealthy relative of the president by marriage, Hasan Asadullozoda, does not seem to have any impact on matters. Indeed, in-fighting among the extended ruling family is the norm rather than the exception these days.
On the whole, state-owned Tajik Air have a slightly better time of it as their tanks are large enough to allow for return flights from Dushanbe to Moscow, so they regularly fill up in Russia.