FOLLOWING the Chairman, Senate Committee on Aviation, Senator Smart Adeyemi’s comments on how domestic airlines delay passengers for 4 – 9 hours and his proposal that the local carriers fail to sit up, foreign airlines would be invited to operate domestic flights, domestic airlines operators have reacted listing no fewer than 16 reasons tied to various government agencies why flights are delayed or cancelled.
According to a statement by the group of airline operators, things like weather, inadequate aircraft parking space, restrictions caused by sunset airports, delays due to VIP movement, frequent Bird Strikes and Foreign Object Damage (FOD) made up some reasons.
Others as highlighted were unavailability and ever rising cost of aviation Fuel; Unavailability of forex for spare parts and maintenance, delays from Customs in clearing of Safety critical spare parts, Poor air traffic flow, Inadequate Check-in Counters.
Airline operators also fingered inadequate screening and exit points at departure and unserviceable baggage claim machines (Carousel), inadequate and unreliable Ground Services Equipment, unruly behavior of passengers and failure to obey rules, lack of runway lights as well as unforeseen circumstances due to component failures and ground accidents
These were revealed in a statement signed by Alhaji Yunusa S. Abdulmunaf of the AON, Barr. Allen Onyema and endorsed by Alhaji Shehu Wada – Max Air, Dr. Obiora Okonkwo – United Nigeria Airlines, Capt. Mfon Udom – Ibom Air, Capt. Roy Ilegbodu – Arik Air; Capt. Abdullahi Mahmood – Aero Contractors, Alhaji Faisal Abdulmunaf – Azman Air, Capt. Edward Boyo – Overland Airways, Mr. Afolabi Babawande – Green Africa and Mr. Sukh Mann – Dana Air
According to the airlines, It is not in the interest of any airline, whether in Nigeria or anywhere else, to delay or cancel flights as this has severe financial and image consequences.
According to the statement, while flight delays and cancellations occur all over the world, it is however instructive to note that in Nigeria, 80% of the causes of delays and cancellations are due to factors that are neither in the control of airlines nor caused by them.
On the reasons for delays, the statement read,”Weather – Due to the lack of basic navigational and visual aids at most airports across the country, airlines are forced to delay flights unnecessarily, waiting for visibility to improve either at departure or destination airports. This is the major cause of delays in the months of October to March every year (with the harmattan dust haze and fog) and this impacts the entire system significantly. Almost every morning, the first flights to several destinations are delayed, affecting the schedule of the airline for the rest of the day. This issue of lack of navigational and visual aids at most of the airports in the country accounts for more than 50% of the delays in the system, for which airlines unfairly always take the fall.
“Inadequate aircraft parking space due to congested Aprons – Both domestic terminals in Lagos (popularly known as GAT and MM2), which are the main hubs and turnaround points for the vast majority of the local industry, are severely capacity constrained to the point of constituting a safety hazard to the industry. Unfortunately, lack of planning by the concerned authorities over the years has led to a deficit in airside infrastructure at both terminals, causing aircraft to park in a chaotic manner, where many aircraft get hemmed in by other aircraft.
“Restrictions caused by Sunset Airports – Again, because of a deficit in navigational and visual aids, most of the airports in Nigeria are open between 6am and 6pm. Once an airline misses this window as a result of one or more of the above mentioned delays, airlines are forced to cancel scheduled flights to such destinations.
“Delays due to VIP movement – The practice of closing the airspace for security reasons to allow the President, Vice President or other VIPs to either depart or arrive, is a significant causal factor of unpredictable and unforeseeable delays in the system. This is no fault of airlines but yet another delay cause for which the domestic airlines take the fall for the entire system on a daily basis.
“Frequent Bird Strikes and Foreign Object Damage (FOD) – Bird strikes and Foreign Objects damage many aircraft during landing, taxiing or takeoff at airports across the country, thereby forcing the aircraft to be parked abruptly until a replacement can be marshaled to operate a flight. A lot can be done about this by the concerned authorities, but the airlines again bear the brunt of the failue to address this key issue.
The statement continued: “Unavailability and ever rising cost of Aviation Fuel – JetA1 today costs above N410 in Lagos, N422 in Abuja and Port Harcourt, and N429 in Kano per litre and has continued to rise fast and steadily. On top of the continuous rise in the fuel price, fuel supply is at best epileptic at several airports thereby causing delays.
“Unavailability of Forex for spare parts and maintenance – Airlines carryout most of their activities in dollars which today sells for between N580 to N600 and is in short supply. Nigeria’s domestic airlines are in a ‘life and death’ struggle to secure the Forex they need to acquire their spare parts to maintain their aircraft. This is a major influence on how quickly a grounded aircraft can be fixed and restored to its flight schedule, which in turn has a huge impact on the schedule reliability of the domestic airlines.
“Delays from Customs in clearing of Safety critical spare parts – Many airlines cannot clear their aircraft spare parts for weeks or months due to Customs bottlenecks… Poor air traffic flow – Sometimes airlines have to wait on the ground in a queue for long periods before being given clearance for takeoff. This goes a long way to affect its arrival and next departure times.
The airlines also blamed delays on, “Lack of Runway Lights – Sometimes airlines are forced to taxi for long periods due to unavailability of runway lights on a particular runway. This further extends the operational time between flights.
It urged urge high profile and respected public office holders to seek for information first so that they have the insights they need to help solve the solvable problems that hinder the domestic air transport system as this is what we expect from them.