Operators Fear more Flights May Be Disrupted by Harmattan Haze

Chinedu Eze

As the Christmas holidays winds down and people prepare to go back to their places of work after the New Year day, there are concerns that Harmattan haze may disrupt flight operations.

Already Nigerian airlines are lamenting that some flights have already been cancelled, while others are delayed and some airlines make adjustments to satisfy their customers, there are indications that the Harmattan haze, which lowers visibility especially during the day may cause further cancellation of flights.

Airlines told THISDAY that, compared to last year, flight disruptions due to Harmattan haze was not yet severe in 2018, as it was last year but there are indications that it could be worse towards January, as winds continue to bring dry dust from the Sahara Desert.

An official of the Nigeria Meteorological Agency (NIMET) and the General Manager, Aero Department, Ibrahim Ishaku, told THISDAY that the interplay of wind forces from as far as Europe would determine whether the Harmattan haze would last till March in which is would continue to disrupt some flights, especially in the far north or that it would end earlier than that.

He said whatever happens, it was expected that the haze would lower visibility the most part of January.

“We cannot actually predict how long the Harmattan will last until I see the charts but we know that it will be there the whole of January and it could be recalled that last year it lasted till March in extreme north that this also affects the rain pattern. There is interplay of forces in the weather system, which will determine how long the Harmattan will last,” he said.

Head of Corporate Communication of Air Peace, Chris Iwarah, pointed out that compared to last year, the 2018 flight disruptions due to Harmattan haze is less severe but noted that the inclement weather is still there and nobody knows how long it would last.

According to him, the Harmattan haze has affected the airline’s operations, especially to destinations like Benin, where it led to cancellation of many flights and Asaba, where flights had been cancelled or delayed.

“We cancelled Benin flights consecutively for days. Today (Wednesday) Asaba flights have been cancelled but we have been helped by the fact that we have more capacity in terms of operating aircraft and we bend backwards to please our customers by taking them to alternate airports.

“So far our Benin and Akure flights are severely affected by the weather and the same thing with Kano and Asaba. Owerri and Enugu this year are much better than last year. We have diverted Asaba flights to Enugu and sometimes we take Port Harcourt flight to Owerri and wait for the bad weather to clear then we take the passengers there and leave immediately before the weather gets worse.

“We do this to please the customers because when we take Asaba passengers to Owerri, we do not schedule the flight so it flies back to Lagos empty but we do this in order to satisfy our customers. Thank God for our Embraer aircraft, which has 50-passenger capacity. That is what has helped us to serve our customers better during this time,” Iwarah explained.

Also, the Head of Media Communications of Dana Air, Kingsley Ezenwa, noted that although flight disruption due to weather was real, its own operations has not been significantly affected because of the destinations the airline flies to.

“We have not recorded much weather disruptions this year compared to last year. Maybe slight delays here and there but we have not cancelled as a result of weather and this is highly commendable.

“We commend the regulators, we also commend ourselves as we review our operations every year to see how well we did particularly, during the Yuletide to know how to improve our services,” Ezenwa said.

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