In recent years, some Nigerian airline operators have been accused of consistent flight delays and cancellations in their domestic operations. Once an airline delays take-off or lands later than its scheduled time, it affects the entire schedule provided by the authorities for all local flights at the airports involved. It equally affects passengers who suffer personal losses and miss booked appointments as a result of such developments.
The Director General of Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Capt. Usman Muthar at a recent interactive forum with the media said 16,880 scheduled domestic flights were delayed while 253 scheduled domestic flights were cancelled between January and June 2018.
NCAA’s Director of Consumer Protection, Mr. Adamu Abdullahi explains that some of the flight delays and cancellations were inevitable as every airline was expected to take safety precautions in cases of bad weather or faulty machine. He however blames some airlines for poor handling of such situations when they arise.
“We encourage airlines to inform passengers on time in situations where they intend to delay or cancel flights and comply with regulations on passenger compensation,” he said.
The Chairman of Air Peace, Mr. Allen Onyema blames the bulk of flight cancellations and delay incidents on poor airports infrastructure.
“It takes two or three hours to clear hundreds of passengers using only one scanning machine. Why won’t there be delay? My pilots get to the airport 5.30am and sit in the cockpit waiting for passengers. The first thing we should do in this country is to improve on our airport infrastructure; from check-in to flight navigational aids, making airport environment conducive, both for operators and passengers. The infrastructure is poor,” he said.
The Corporate Communications Manager of Air Peace, Mr. Chris Iwarah says the failure of government agencies like Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) to provide the required infrastructure at the airports does not only affect air travelers but also implies additional cost to airlines. He cites instances of air traffic control, holding an aircraft for so long and cases of VIP movements that delay landings which all increase fuel costs.
Iwarah adds that once an airline delays or cancels flights suddenly, the airline’s angry passengers obstruct operations of another airline; a case of transferred aggression.
The General Secretary of Aviation Safety Round Table Initiative (ASRTI), Group Capt. John Ojikutu (Rtd) says other service providers such as handling companies contribute to the schedule integrity problems of airlines.
The Chairman of Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON), Capt. Nogie Megisson wants NAMA to install the required navigational aids at the airports to minimize airline’s challenges. He equally calls on government to address issues of fuel pricing and availability which contribute to flight delays and cancellations and ultimately affect schedule integrity.
Asked why the regulatory body does not seem to sanction airing airlines on this issue as expected by other airlines, Mr. Abdullahi says: “if there is delay and the airline proves to the NCAA that the delay is not the airline’s fault, such airline cannot be penalized because we are guided by regulations. We equally caution airlines to take preventive measures against such occurrences.”