- Says foreign airlines should have considered Abuja
Chinedu Eze in Lagos and Kasim Sumaina in Abuja
The federal government has apologised to air travellers over the cancellation and delay of flights since the past four days and attributed it to bad weather and malfunctioning Instrument Landing System (ILS).
This is just as a new Nigeria airline, Green Africa, has ordered 50 new aircraft from Airbus.
The Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, in a statement signed by the Director, Public Affairs, Ministry of Aviation, James Odaudu, expressed concern over the suffering of air travellers to and from the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos regarding flights diversion and, in many cases, outright cancellations, which have been occasioned by highly inclement weather conditions.
“While these developments are greatly regretted, we wish to let the public know that the authorities at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos were in the process of replacing the old Category 2 Instrument Landing Systems with the newly procured Category 3 system that allows for the lowest visibility landing. Unfortunately, there was a malfunctioning of certain components, which, coupled with the unforeseen weather conditions, made landing at the airport difficult.
“The procurement of the Category 3 Instrument Landing System is in pursuance of the desire of the federal government to ensure the safety of air passengers by ensuring that airplanes can land with almost zero visibility. We wish to assure the public and the airlines, that efforts are on to return the system to full working condition and that normalcy of operations will be re-established in due course,” the minister said.
On the diversion of incoming international flights to neighbouring countries, Sirika also said, “We wish to reiterate that the decisions are purely those of the airlines which we have no control over.”
The minister equally observed, however, that the flights that were diverted to neighbouring countries could, and “should have been rerouted to the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja which is shorter or equidistant from Lagos to the foreign airports to which some of the flights have been diverted.”
He noted that in recognition of Abuja as an alternate airport, Qatar Airways has applied to divert its flights to the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, to which the minister granted immediate approval.
“It is left to be seen why some others decided to divert to another country. We wish to use this medium to assure the general public that the comfort, safety and security of the flying public remains the central focus of this administration and that no effort would be spared in ensuring this,” he said.
More flights were either cancelled or diverted yesterday, as domestic airlines explained to its passengers that the disruption of flights was caused by the weather.
Meanwhile, Green Africa Airways, Nigeria’s Lagos-based airline, has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Europe-based aircraft manufacturing company, Airbus for 50 A220-300 aircraft, one of the major orders to be placed globally for the A220 programme and the largest ever from the African continent.
Founder & CEO of Green Africa Airways, Babawande Afolabi said, “Together with Airbus, we are incredibly proud to announce the largest order ever for the A220 from the African continent. The Green Africa story is a story of entrepreneurial boldness, strategic foresight and an unwavering commitment to using the power of air travel to create a better future.”
Airbus Chief Commercial Officer, Christian Scherer, speaking from the Singapore Airshow, added, “We are excited about the Green Africa project, its legitimate ambition and its professionalism, evidenced by their most discerning choice for their operating assets. The unique characteristics of the A220 will allow the airline to unlock destinations and route pairs that previously would have been considered non-viable. We look forward to our partnership with Green Africa and to accompany their development with the most efficient aircraft in its class.”