…FG fixes landing facilities
…Emirates resumes flights, BA apologises to passengers
With flight operations almost totally disrupted for about six days at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos, following technology hiccup-triggered and weather-related crises, airlines, passengers and business owners have estimated that they lost billions of Naira to the avoidable turmoil.
Investigations by Daily Trust showed that these losses were associated with unbudgeted funds for hotel accommodation and other incidental expenses incurred as a result of cancelled flights by many airlines, even as the operators also continued to bemoan their losses.
For instance, it is estimated that during the chaos, the 19 foreign airlines plying the nation’s routes recorded about N36.811 billion to flight disruptions based on their daily loss of about N322.9 million. This is even as about six domestic carriers are believed to have lost about N10.004 billion.
Airlines count losses
According to the airlines’ loss analysis on the flights disruption, 19 foreign airlines lose N322.9m per day for six days when the crisis started.
The losses included the costs of accommodation to the stranded passengers, fueling, feeding, landing and parking fees at the airport.
Lufthansa, it was learnt, put its loss at 200,000 euros daily.
An analyst, Tayo Ojuri, said the costs did not include other unaccountable costs such as rebooking, high value and sensitive goods and, in some cases, refunds.
Similarly, domestic carriers including Air Peace, Dana Air, Arik Air, Max Air, among others are estimated to have lost N279m as a result of cancellation. The losses were incurred on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, last week.
It would be recalled that Arik Air and Dana Air issued travel advisory last week, notifying their passengers about the inclement weather in many parts of the country which resulted in cancellations of some flights.
“I can’t quantify the losses due to delays,” said an airline operator.
Passengers Decry Hitches, Count Losses
Scores of foreign airlines passengers are yet to recover from the losses suffered as a result flight disruptions caused by the inclement weather at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos.
The weather, accompanied by haze and dust, prevented flights from taking off and landing because of the non-calibration of the Category 3 Instrument Landing System (ILS) which the Federal Government has already procured.
Though the equipment was fixed last week by NCAA and the flight situation at the airport appears to be gradually being normalised now, the trauma and economic losses incurred by passengers and airline operators could not be quantified.
One passenger on a British Airways flight from London to Lagos reportedly escaped death by the whiskers after the flight was diverted to Accra, when they had to make a personal arrangement to come by road to Lagos.
Daily Trust learnt that about 300 passengers chartered Cross Country buses to come to Lagos by road after spending two days in Accra.
The passenger, who refused to give his details because he was still in talk with the airline, was said to have arrived Lagos in the night with his driver waiting to pick him up. Unfortunately they were stuck in Lagos traffic gridlock where they were attacked by traffic robbers.
“While in traffic on the way home, they were attacked by guys brandishing pistols and machetes. Thank God, he is alive to tell the story though with a cracked skull from a machete and all valuables (luggage, passport, and phones) taken away by the attackers,” said a relative of the passenger who is said to be currently devastated by the experience.
Another passenger, Dr. Muiz Banire, also recounted his ordeal over a missed conference in Istanbul, Turkey, because his Turkish Airlines flight could not take off from the MMIA.
In his weekly leadership series extracted on his Twitter handle @Mbanire, the legal practitioner blamed the development on inefficiency in the system.
He wrote: “The deceit around is that the inclement weather is not permitting the landing and takeoff of flights, whereas the reality is that the essential equipment in aid of navigation during extreme weather, like we are experiencing now, is not functional at the Murtala Muhammed Airport.
“For the benefit of those that have not followed the events in the aviation sector in the last week, all major international flights into Nigeria could not land at the Murtala Muhammed Airport in Lagos, neither could the landed aircraft take off for that period, courtesy of the failure of equipment technically known as ILS, a navigational aid for landing and takeoff of aircraft during extreme weather.”
NAMA completes ILS recalibration
Barely one week into the crisis, the Federal Government on Thursday said it had completed the calibration of the Instrument Landing System (ILS) category three at the airport.
The calibration was done by the Nigeria Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) and a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) has been issued to that effect.
NOTAM, in aviation parlance, is issued to airlines, operators and other stakeholders at the airport to inform them about some changes to flights operations.
Before then, nearly all international flights were cancelled last week while some were diverted to Accra as the aircraft could not land in Lagos.
Though it costs more for airlines to land in another country, it was not clear why they decided to choose another country and not other airports in Nigeria, especially the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport (NAIA), Abuja, where the weather was said to be better.
British Airways, last week, announced the cancellation of its flights to London “due to poor weather and visibility issues.” It was learnt that their passengers were, however, accommodated at different hotels in town.
Also last week, Emirates’ EK782 from Lagos to Dubai and Etihad Airways flight EY674 to Abu Dhabi were delayed for hours “due to poor visibility in Lagos.”
Similarly, Ghanaian airline, African World, cancelled its Lagos-Accra flight, blaming the development on “adverse weather condition in Lagos.”
Other airlines affected by the weather included Lufthansa, Egypt Air, Air Cote D’Ivoire, Delta, Qatar, among others.
The developments left many passengers stranded in Lagos, Abuja and Accra. British Airways alone confirmed that over 600 passengers were affected by the disruption last week.
Emirates resumes Lagos flights
Emirates Airlines, which earlier suspended its Lagos-Dubai flights, following the bad weather and the non-calibration of the landing equipment, on Thursday resumed its flights.
Our correspondent, who was at the airport, observed that the airline’s flight EK782 departed on schedule to Dubai International Airport.
British Airways apologises to passengers
Daily Trust reports that over 300 passengers of British Airways were stranded at Accra for days while some of them had to make personal arrangements to charter a Cross Country Bus from Accra to Lagos.
“We were to spend six hours and some minutes from London to Lagos but we landed in Accra because the airplane could not land in Lagos. We had to come back by road, spending more than six hours that we would have spent flying London to Lagos by road,” one of the passengers who did not want to be named said.
Mr. Michael Williams, who is the Head of Business Development for EbonyLife TV insisted that the airline abandoned them in Accra, Ghana, and told them to find their way to Lagos after 48 hours in the city.
But BA yesterday said though it chartered a 767 aircraft to convey the passengers from Accra to Lagos, it was not aware some of the passengers made personal arrangement to come to Lagos.
British Airways General Manager for West Africa, Mr. Kola Olayinka, yesterday however, apologised to the passengers even as he asked them to submit receipts of their expenses to the airline for reimbursement.
According to him, the situation has been a result of recent delays and diversions of flights occasioned by the inclement weather causing very poor visibility at the Lagos Airport, coupled with a number of factors outside of our immediate control.
On the diversion to Accra, he said: “The Accra incident was markedly unpredictable as the delay lingered for two days due to the persisting weather condition. We chartered a Boeing 767 from Euro Atlantic to convey passengers from Accra to Lagos. However, a number of passengers had opted to make personal arrangements for their return.
“We regret the frustrations experienced and the disruptions it would have had on earlier-planned engagements of our esteemed customers. We would also like to use this opportunity to encourage passengers to send receipts of expenses incurred during this period to our customer relations team on standby to process the reimbursements and also attend to queries.”
Experts express their views
President of Aviation Roundtable, Dr. Gbenga Olowo, decried the situation, saying prioritising Lagos Airport, which is the busiest in the country, should be paramount.
He expressed dismay that authorities at the airport “do know the exigencies of their individual tasks and services provided for safety and profitability but how they prioritise these tasks remains hydra headed.
“The most irritating to the ears is that the calibration aircraft purchased cannot calibrate the LOS ILS. I stand to be corrected. Who then made the decision to procure such incomprehensive equipment?”
Also speaking, Engr. Layi Fatimileyin said, “The solution to put an end to diversion of aircraft during bad weather that often leads to poor visibility is simple. It is provision of functioning CAT – III Instrument Landing System (ILS-CAT -III) at all our four International Airports, presently located at Lagos, Abuja, P/H and Kano.