Air travel in chaos as harmattan further grounds flights
• Minister, NCAA apologise
• Govt to retool Lagos airport for better visibility
For the second day running, air travel was again grounded to a halt yesterday as haze blurred air-to-ground visibility at airports nationwide.
While aircraft were delayed on the ramp for hours, stuck passengers grew uneasy, throwing various domestic terminals into chaos.
The international travellers were not left out, especially in Lagos, as in-bound flights still had to divert to Accra, Lome and Abuja airports, for the third day in succession.
Apparently not unaware of the disrupted services, the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, and the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), apologised to the travelling public to bear with the airlines, as the authorities work round the clock to mitigate the effects of bad weather on flying.
The Guardian observed that besides the first set of flights that took off from Lagos airport on schedule yesterday, the others were delayed over inclemency till after 2p.m.
The delay caused a chain reaction at all other local airports nationwide, as passengers inwards Lagos and Abuja especially, awaited the arrival of their operating aircraft endlessly.
A Kano-bound passenger, on Overland Airways, had his flight from Lagos cancelled on Wednesday and rescheduled for the following day. As at 12 p.m. yesterday, he was still waiting.
From the floor, where he was seated, he said: “This is the third day I have been trying to get to Kano by air, but they keep telling us that the weather is bad. Even when the weather is not bad their (airlines) services have never been good. The whole system is annoying.”
At least five of the eight operating local carriers yesterday issued travel advisories, urging passengers to first inquire about the status of their scheduled flights from customer service, before coming to the airport.
All the airlines blamed the development on the haze and gave no guarantee of on-time departure.
Arik Air notified customers that poor and persisting weather condition had affected their Port Harcourt, Kaduna, Benin, Warri, Asaba, Yola and Sokoto routes.
It was learnt that many international travellers have not been able to return to Lagos since the week began.
With the harmattan intensifying since Monday and the Instrument Landing Systems (ILSs) still sub-optimal, Lagos-bound international airlines like British Airways, Delta Air, Emirates and Etihad have had to choose between Kotoka International Airport in Accra, Ghana or Gnassingbe Eyadema International Airport, Lome, Togo. Ethiopian Airlines simply diverted Lagos traffic to Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.
Sirika, said the development was regrettable, though blamed the massive disruption on malfunctioning components around the runways in Lagos, made worse by “the unforeseen weather conditions.”
He assured that they were in the process of replacing the old Category II ILS with the newly procured Category III system that allows for the lowest visibility landing at the nation’s busiest airport.
A statement in Abuja by the Deputy Director Public Relations in the Ministry James Odaudu, further confirmed the procurement of the sophisticated equipment.