Say 80% of operations disrupted by poor infrastructure, N429/litre fuel, others
Local airlines, yesterday, pushed back on flight delays and cancellations rocking the sector, saying they are not culpable as recently claimed by the Senate Committee on Aviation.
The operators, at a meeting of Airlines Operators of Nigeria (AON), yesterday, said blaming airlines for factors outside their control was inciting and uncharitable.
They said, at least, 80 per cent of flight delays would be eradicated if concerned authorities fix poor airport infrastructure, decongest aprons, expand airport operating hours, tackle fuel scarcity and its rising cost, and reduce Customs bottlenecks, among others.
The House of Assembly’s joint Committee on Aviation, during an oversight visit to the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), recently, complained about flight delays, saying it was no longer acceptable that operators would delay scheduled operations for four to nine hours.
Chairman of the Committee, Smart Adeyemi, had warned: “Should the local carriers fail to sit up, foreign airlines would be invited to operate domestic flights in the country.”
The concerned operators, at a meeting attended by 11 carriers, said such comments only serve to aggravate sentiments and incite passengers and the general public.
They noted that commercial airlines globally were set up with strict adherence to flight schedules. These schedules are put in place, not only for the benefit of customers, but also to allow airlines maximise use of aircraft to meet up with targets over a period of time and ensure safety and sustainability.
President of AON, Yunusa Abdulmunaf, said it is, therefore, 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.
He said: “While flight delays and cancellations occur all over the world, it is instructive to note that in Nigeria, 80 per cent of the causes of delays and cancellations are due to factors that are neither in the control of airlines nor caused by them.
“Any airline in the world that is forced to operate under domestic Nigerian circumstances would be bogged down by delays they have no control over.”
The operators mentioned 16 reasons for flight delays, which include changes in weather, inadequate aircraft parking space due to congested aprons, too many sunset airports that operate between 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. only, flight delays due to VIP movements, bird strikes and foreign object damage to aircraft, scarcity and rising cost of aviation fuel that “today costs above N410 in Lagos, N422 in Abuja and Port Harcourt, and N429 in Kano.”
Others are: unavailability of forex for spare parts and maintenance, Customs allegedly delaying clearance of safety critical spare parts, poor air traffic flow, inadequate check-in counters, inadequate screening and exit points at departure, unserviceable baggage claim machines, inadequate and unreliable ground services equipment for boarding and disembarkation of passengers, unruly passengers, lack of runway lights and unforeseen circumstances due to component failures and ground accidents.
The operators said: “AON invites the public to note that if these ‘fixable’ issues were to be solved today by the concerned authorities, the frequent delays passengers experience in the domestic system would immediately reduce by 80 per cent.
“We would, therefore, also like to urge high-profile and respected public office holders to seek information, first, so that they have the insights they need to help solve the solvable problems that hinder the domestic air transport system.”