Yuletide: Flight Cancellations, Delays, Frustrate Travellers

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Chinedu Eze

The Christmas holiday has turned gloomy for many air travellers in Nigeria who wish to travel from their place of work to their communities to celebrate with their families. This is because at the end of every year flights to many destinations in Nigeria are cancelled due to Harmattan haze.

During this period many airports have visibility below acceptable minimal, which in some airports is 800 meters. Passengers are made to spend many hours beyond their flight time waiting for a possible favourable weather report that would enable the airlines operate their flights.

Since December 24 airlines have been finding it extremely difficult to operate to such airports located in Port Harcourt, Enugu, Benin, Asaba, Warri, Akure and others and passengers were left stranded at the airports.

THISDAY learnt from the airlines that they do not out rightly cancel flights until report from the Nigeria Meteorological Agency (NIMET) confirm that there would not be acceptable visibility for the day, adding that sometimes while the passengers wait they may get favourable weather report and the flights could operate.

According to the Executive Chairman of Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON), Captain Nogie Meggison, the solution to the weather challenges, including Harmattan haze is the installation of Category 3 Instrument Landing System (ILS) at the airports.

This category of ILS allows aircraft to land at zero visibility at the airport. There have been efforts to install the equipment at major airports in the country, according to the Managing Director of the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), Captain Fola Akinkuotu.

Currently the Kaduna International Airport has Category 3 ILS and there are plans to install same in Lagos and Abuja, which have high category of the equipment.

Nigeria’s major carrier, Medview Airline has previously apologised to its passengers because of flight delays caused by unfavourable weather.

“We share your pains for our inability at the material time to fly you to your destinations at the appointed time,” the airline told the passengers.

The airline said the safety of passengers and crew come first before any other considerations, and in such situations, delays and rescheduling become inevitable.

“We have put the necessary logistics in place to meet our obligations to our esteemed passengers who have over the years kept faith with us,” the airline said.

Also spokesman of Air Peace, which controls over 45 per cent of domestic passenger traffic, Chris Iwarah, told THISDAY that bad weather, which leads to poor visibility, is responsible for most of the delays and sometimes flight cancellation.

He added that flight delays are also caused by limited facilities at some airports.

For example, at the General Aviation Terminal (GAT) of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, both Arik Air and Air Peace are using only one passenger processing gate each and also using one x-ray machine for each gate. This means that no airline can process two or more flights at the same time. One flight must be processed before another and this causes delays.

THISDAY also learnt that fares to Eastern, South West and South South part of the country are higher than other destinations because these areas are recording upsurge in passenger movement.

“Travellers should also know that airport facilities are completely overstretched. Government may be doing its best but these facilities are overstretched due to passenger upsurge. We used to notice these limitations in the past but high passenger movement has made it very obvious and this contributes to flight delays,” Iwarah said.
Spokesman of Dana Air, Kingsley Ezenwa told THISDAY that many of the airline’s flights have not been disrupted by weather, saying the airline has experienced slight delay in some of its flights.

Although the airline has relatively less number of flights compared to Air Peace and Medview, but it has also maintained relatively low fares.

Many of the airlines recorded huge losses last year due to flight cancellations and aviation fuel scarcity, which seem to be available this year despite the scarcity of petrol.


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