Available statistical data revealed earlier in the week showed that Nigeria-owned airlines did abysmally on their domestic operations with a whopping 8, 478 flight delayed and 281 flights cancellations on the domestic routes in the first quarter of 2016 between January and March.
The figure shows an over 50% delay and cancellation of the total flights operated and information from the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) portal accessed by Nigerianflightdeck showed that the delays and cancellations on the domestic routes revolved around the eight (8) major players in the industry.
In reaction to these startling figures, some stakeholders are of the opinion that the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) should be worried if over 50% of scheduled flights are delayed while there are some others who also feel that the regulatory authority dishing out the figures of flight delays and cancellations were not fair to the airlines as they refused to give out the root causes of these delays and cancellations of which many are not within the control of the airlines.
In a response to NFD questions on the humongous delay and cancellation figures, President of industry think tank group, Aviation Round Table (ART), Elder Gabriel Olowo explained that cancellations can be caused by a lot of factors ranging from technical to economical.
Elder Olowo in his submission stated that technical snags on an aircraft, poor fleet size of an airline, extremely poor weather and even VIP movement can cause delays while some of the situations are likely to cause cancellations.
Olowo said,” A number of reasons can be given for airline flight delays and or flight cancellation. Among others include ‘Technical’ resulting from sudden snags in aircraft component which can impact on safety. Flight will be delayed temporarily to rectify such snag but cancelled eventually if aircraft remain unserviceable after 2-3 hours of snag unsuccessful correction. “
“Others are poor fleet size to replace unserviceable aircraft at any one time, late arrival of operating aircraft from previous service, VIP movement, Very poor weather condition at home or enroute, security check delays, etc.”
According to the veteran, caused by any of the above factors, the vital issue is constant passenger briefing and updates to avert speculations.
“There are also standard practices on what to do as delays get extended and may be eventually cancelled. This ranges from light refreshment after an hour or so to a full meal ( lunch or dinner depending ) after about 3 hours or to the hotel for overnight stay in the event of 24 hours delay with all layover expenses paid.”
“This may not be necessary at the point of flight origin if cancellation is determined in good time to allow passengers return home but definitely so at transit points.”
Another respondent, a pilot, who spoke to NFD stated that the NCAA, if it had wanted to reel out figures on cancellations and delays, should have also reeled out the root causes of these stating that no airline wants to delay or cancel any flight especially when what they sell is the speed of travel.
According to him some factors beyond airline’s control including weather, availability or not of Jet A1, the service providers and even the regulatory body itself can lead to delays or cancellations but also stated that there are some factors that can also be caused by pilots and crew.
“If the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) decides to publish delays and cancellations, it should also publish the root causes. If they do not publish root causes, then it is all window dressing. No airline wants to delay flights as it sells speed of travel and every airline wants to be 90%-100% full capacity but sometimes the environment the airline operates, the circumstances all militate against it and so root causes need to be broken down so everyone knows that sometimes it is not up to the airlines alone.”
“Pilots and crew can be the cause of a delayed flight but so also can the regulator, sometimes the aircraft needs inspection and the airline has to wait for the inspector before it flies that constitutes a delay.”
“We have an infrastructure problem, it happened when Virgin Nigeria was operating when the flight of a particular route increases the infrastructure on ground to process the passengers are not there to handle these passengers and this increases the time on the flight. Infrastructure needs to be improved upon.”
“We want a situation where FAAN can process a passenger under a minute or where the conveyor belts are working at optimum and there can also be a delay from the areas of customs and these are places where facilitation is needed.”
“We want a situation where an aircraft does a ground return and it does not have to wait for the NCAA inspector to inspect again after the engineers have cleared before the aircraft flies.”
“There is no need to sanction an airline for things like that where there are rules, you can only sanction where applicable laws are not followed. There is no regulator that would want to look at the delays and cancellations without looking at the root causes.”
Chief Executive of Centurion Securities, Group Captain John Ojikutu(rtd ) in his submissions told NFD that the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) said that he was happy that someone was keeping tabs on the inadequacies and carelessness of airlines but raised salient questions on what the NCAA was doing.
“Much as the report showed that some persons are keeping watch over certain carelessness and inadequacies of our airline operators, the questions must be asked; who is protecting the customers from these airlines mismanagement of their flights and the abuse of the customers? Who is making them accountable for their lapses or what are the sanctions available for these lapses in d national regulations?”
He also said that the regulatory body should, instead of rolling out figures, busy themselves with the cause of these delays and cancellations to aid in reducing them to the barest minimum stating that some of the cancellations may be traced to safety.
Ojikutu went on:”Situations where the numbers of flight delays are more than 50% of the total number of scheduled flights within certain period should be worrisome. So also are the delays which are more than 10% of the daily schedules. The Regulator should worry more about the causes of these cancellations and delays than busying rolling out the figures which showed an average of more than 2,500 cancellation every month or over 80 cancellations in a day. “
“This should not be acceptable in the industry that prides itself with encomium of Category 1 and a success in recent ICAO Audit. To me some of these cancellations and delays could be traceable to safety issues.
Ojikutu advised the regulatory body further,”What should be paramount in the NCAA oversight checklists should be; what are the main causes of these high figures and frequent cancellations and delays? Are they technical and are they related to airworthiness or snags? Are they caused by crew inadequacies or lateness?”
“Operational reasons due to volume of traffic in the airspace or inadequate air traffic controllers? Inclement weather conditions? Unserviceable navigational aids, or airfield safety status? Are they caused still by our over-zealous political office holders etc? Such reports must tell us which of all these have contributed to the cancellations and or delays so as to know who in any of the cases, should be held responsible.”
He went on to state that in all this, the air traveller is the one who suffers all and bears the brunt further asking about the effectiveness of the Consumer Protection Unit (CPU) in cases of delays and cancellations.
“In all these cases of cancellations and delays, it is the air travellers that suffer; but how has the regulator prepared the operators to compensate the consumers for their void services?”
“The NCAA CPU should establish in the national civil aviation regulations, a minimum standard allowed every operator for delaying and cancelling flights by time and frequencies per month and yearly. NCAA should provide sanctions to operators for breaches beyond any of the minimum national standards.”
“There are already established standards for safety services operators and providers like FAAN, NAMA or NIMET to provide early warnings to airline operators through NOTAMS in good time on any deficiencies or inefficiencies in their safety supports. However, should any of these safety services providers contributes in any way to any irregular cancellations and delays, the NCAA should investigate and redress by sanctioning the responsible service providers appropriately,” he surmised.