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NCAA blames flight delays, cancellations on poor use of capacity

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The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has blamed the perennial flight delays and cancellations on poor use of capacity across the domestic routes. The apex regulatory body urged the carriers to always allow room for exigencies in aircraft deployment and daily operations to mitigate the worrisome trend.

The Consumer Protection Directorate (CPD) of the NCAA reported that at least 3,049 flights were delayed in October 2019, with the bulk of the delays coming from domestic operations. A total of 16,426 flights were delayed in the first half of 2019, out the 30,043 flights executed by the airlines.

Industry statistics had earlier shown that a total of 19,323 delays were recorded in the first half of 2018. Local airlines posted 16,880 delays while their foreign counterparts accounted for 2,443 during the period.The acting Director General of the NCAA, Capt. Abdullahi Sidi, said the trend was unacceptable, and the domestic carriers especially, must begin to take proactive and realistic measures to tackle the delays.

He observed that most operators often put all their aircraft into service at once, to get the highest returns. But all the plans easily get scuttled when one of the operating aircraft goes out of service. “If you look at what is happening in this country, there are more airlines compared to 2015. But we have our own challenges. For instance, an airline has four aircraft, and schedules these four aircraft to operate toe to toe for maximum effect. Passengers have booked tickets and waiting to depart. All of a sudden, one out of those four aircraft develops a fault. It is going to affect the entire schedule. That is what is happening that we are having such delays.

“In Nigeria, it is a fact that we have some challenges with planning. I don’t know how the operators are going to feel about this. Sometimes, they (operators) are selfish. Why put four airplanes to maxim operation when anything can go wrong? Why not have a backup plan in place to alleviate the sufferings of the passengers?” he advised.

Besides the local airlines’ use of capacity, Sidi added that the growth of air passenger traffic, creation of more airlines, insufficient fleet capacity among operators, poor weather and inadequate ground equipment at most of the airports are factors behind flight delays.

“We have issue of bad weather. There are two types: the harmattan and rainy season. We are now taking care of harmattan that we are already entering. The approach equipment has been upgraded seriously to even allow airplane to land in zero weather condition. We have category III Instrument Landing System (ILS). We have this in Lagos and Abuja. Other airports are Category II ILS. The only one you can’t do anything about is heavy rain.

“But, thank God, most heavy rains in tropical zones don’t last for more than 45 minutes. So, you have to wait to get the weather report to depart to your destination. Delays will happen when they have to happen,” he said.Operator and chairman of Air Peace airline, Allen Onyema, recently said the passengers must as well understand the peculiarity of the environment and sensitivity of the business. Onyema explained that with the problems of weather, there is a lot of rationing to accommodate the sunset airports.

“The airport infrastructure is also not helpful. The government is just trying to do something about it and until they finish, we would keep having the challenges. “We have to prioritise our schedules to accommodate those sunset airports that close by 6pm. So, you see us trying to do Owerri, Benin, Yola and other sunset airports during the day. When you do that, Abuja, Lagos, Port Harcourt are sacrificed, and flown into at night. But passengers don’t understand this. If airports have night flying facilities, you will see the delays minimised,” he said.


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Abdullahi SidiNCAA
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