The acting Director-General of the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Captain Chris Najomo, has condemned the incessant flight disruptions by Nigerian airlines and directed operators to improve their services or face punitive action from the regulatory authority.
Najomo, who met with the airlines at the weekend, frowned on the alarming incidence of delays, flight disruptions, and schedule changes without adequate notice to passengers. He threatened that if this continued the operators would face sanctions.
He reiterated the need for airlines to improve their services, saying Minister of Aviation and Aerospace Development, Mr. Festus Keyamo, is determined to enforce his five-point agenda as mandated by President Bola Tinubu.
Najomo said the current record of flight disruptions, poor customer experience, and poor handling of passengers was unacceptable and must change.
He insisted that airlines must rejig their flight schedules to match their number of serviceable aircraft, saying airlines are aware of the airports which have sunset operations and are expected to reflect that in their schedules.
He stated, “Airlines must consider scheduling flights into sunset airports early in the day so as to minimise cancellations as a result of airport closure at sunset. NCAA will ensure that airlines fulfil their obligations to passengers or face sanctions.
“Airlines must handle persons with reduced mobility properly, with dignity and without discrimination, as airlines are mandated to provide facilities for the movement of persons with reduced mobility and by virtue of the provisions of Nigeria Civil Aviation Regulations Part 19, airlines are required to provide on their ticket portal a mandatory field for special needs assistance and require their agents to actively ask customers during ticket purchase if they will require assistance.”
The acting director general said it was no longer business as usual, as errant airlines will be sanctioned appropriately, noting that NCAA has stepped up its surveillance to monitor airlines’ compliance with regulations with a view to fishing out violators.
He emphasised that the authority would not relent in its commitment to ensuring pleasurable travel experience and comfort for air transport passengers, adding that the airlines must be committed to work on all issues raised and make adjustments where necessary.
Director, Consumer Protection and Public Affairs, NCAA, Mr. Michael Achimugu, stressed the importance of the meeting with the airlines and said the minister was focused on sanitising the aviation industry. Achimugu stated that sanctions would be applied for any infractions or flight disruptions not managed properly.
Concerns raised by some airlines during the meeting included poor airport facilities, the single standby generator at the General Aviation Terminal (GAT) in Lagos, frequent bird strikes, bush burning near Port Harcourt airport, and congested boarding gates.
The concerns were addressed by Director of Airport Operations, Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Captain Zubair Mamood, who disclosed that FAAN had observed that incidents of bird strikes occurred during grass cutting at the airports. Mamood said FAAN was working to minimise bird strike incidents.
He said FAAN was also looking into the issue of airport facilities with a view to finding immediate solutions to ease passenger and baggage flow at the airports. He said the measure adopted by the agency had become evident at some airport terminals.
During the meeting, Assistant General Manager, Flight Operations and Adjudication, NCAA, Mrs. Ifueko Abdulmalik, presented a paper on the provisions of the Nigeria Civil Aviation Regulations 2023 Part 19, which focused on airline obligations to passengers in the events of flight delays, cancellations, schedule changes, baggage delays, and loss.
Abdulmalik said 53 per cent of total flights operated in Nigeria in 2023 were delayed, and one per cent was cancelled. He added that the session was necessary so as to inform the airlines of the provisions of the regulations and applicable sanctions.