Domestic airlines lost huge revenue on Wednesday and Thursday, due to flight cancellations and delays occasioned by bad weather.
THISDAY learnt that Nigeria’s major carrier, Air Peace delayed many of its flights to Asaba, Kaduna from Lagos due to Harmattan haze, which reduced visibility below accepted flight level at all the airports in the country.
Owing to this, the busiest route, Lagos-Abuja flights were not operated most of Wednesday, due to bad weather.
There were outright cancellation or delays of flights by domestic airlines from Abuja to northern destinations like Kano, Ilorin, Yola, Kaduna and Jos due to the inclement weather.
An official of one of the major airlines told THISDAY that airlines have lost so much money due to bad weather.
“We delayed our Lagos-Kaduna flight due to bad weather. We operate early morning flight to Kaduna every day from Lagos but as at now, 12 mid-day, we have not operated that flight.
“Everywhere is on lock down because the bad weather is affecting every airport. We cannot operate Abuja-Asaba flight because that Asaba airspace is susceptible to weather changes. We have shelved Lagos-Asaba flight till further notice.
It was not only domestic airlines that were affected by the bad weather.
For instance, on Tuesday night, Emirates and British Airways diverted their flights destined to Lagos to the Ghanaian capital, Accra, while malfunctioned Instrument Landing System (ILS) at the Port Harcourt Airport barred airlines from operating to the destinations.
Notice to Air Men (NOTAM) issued on the Port Harcourt Airport stated that the ILS on the runway was unserviceable, but the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) dispatched a team of engineers on Wednesday to repair the equipment.
Spokesman of Arik Air, Adebanji Ola, told THISDAY that the bad weather affected the operations of all domestic airlines, forcing them to cancel or delay flights.
“There is no airline in Nigeria that was not affected by the bad weather. It also affected us. We don’t know when it will get better but we hope that it will improve so that normal flights can resume,” he added.
Ola, also confirmed that many international flights destined to Nigeria had to land in Accra, Ghana due to the bad weather.
The Head of Communications at Dana Air, Kingsley Ezenwa, also told THISDAY that many of its flights were delayed due to the bad weather, adding that the airline wrote to its passengers to update them about the weather report, offering them choices for those that wished to cancel or reschedule their flights.
But the Airport Manager of Sam Mbakwe International Cargo Airport, Owerri, Mrs. Rejoice Ndudinachi, told THISDAY that the airport recorded flights because it was not adversely affected by the bad weather.
She said Owerri has become a hub in the South-east and is rarely affected by the bad weather, even during the Christmas period, which is usually the height of the Harmattan haze; that when flights are diverted from Enugu and Asaba airports they come to Owerri to land.
“Owerri is now a hub. When bad weather affected Enugu and Asaba airports, we always have good visibility; even during Harmattan,” Ndudinachi said.
The Director, Consumer Protection Directorate (CPD), NCAA, Adamu Abdullahi in reaction to the inclement weather said flight delays and cancellations are unavoidable in the global aviation industry, adding that the regulatory agency would ensure that the rights of the flying public were not trampled upon by airlines and other organisations in the sector.
Apart from safety and operational reasons, he said the NCAA has had cause to sanction erring airlines for not fulfilling their obligations to passengers, but said such sanctions were not for public domain.
“Delays and flight cancellations are inevitable in the aviation industry. They must happen. The regulations realise that. That is why we looked at it and we decided to ensure compensation to passengers. However, I will prefer to call it refreshments for the passengers, rather than compensation,” he said.
Abdullahi, said flight cancellations and delays due to bad weather is beyond the control of anyone so no one can be blamed for that, adding that there have been tremendous improvements in the provision of landing aids.