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NCAA hinges flight delays, cancellations on low capacity

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•Improve infrastructure for 24-hour services, airlines urge

The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), has blamed the incessant flight delays and cancellations in local operations on the depleted fleet of some of the operating airlines.The apex regulatory body said the multiple delays further worsened during the festive period, as several of the aircraft went on routine maintenance.

But in reaction, the airlines said poor infrastructure at most of the airports and bad weather were to blame for frequent disruptions than their fleet capacity. Figures from the Consumer Protection Directorate (CPD) of the NCAA estimated that no fewer than 3,476 local flights were delayed by eight airlines in month of November alone. About eight flights were cancelled, four made air return, 56 luggage were either missing or delayed out of about one million passengers that traveled both inbound and outbound direction.

Their 26 international counterparts recorded 427 delays, three air returns, 2,209 delayed or missing luggage, and three flight cancellations on the foreign routes.The Director of CPD, Adamu Abdullahi, said last year was a watershed in terms of customers’ dissatisfaction, as the NCAA recorded an unprecedented number of complaints from domestic air travellers, arising from flight delays and cancellations.

Abdullahi attributed the complaints to in adequate aircraft by operators, adding that most of the aircraft were due for maintenance almost at the same time and had to be flown out of the country for the approved mandatory checks.“We have gotten plenty of complains from passengers. The problem is, we don’t have enough aircraft operating in the country. Most airlines are down. Arik that used to have over 20 aircraft as at today can only boast of seven or eight. Aero Contractors that also had something in the region of 12 is now down to two or three. The same is true of other airlines,” he said.

The Director noted that passengers suffered untold hardships whenever there were disruptions in the flight schedule of airlines, which affect all the routes operated by airlines.“We are expected to have a long bad harmattan haze. But when safety is involved, comfort is no longer an issue. So, we encourage airlines to make sure that they abide by the rules guiding their operations as oppose to passengers.”

Adamu appealed to airlines to properly notify their passengers as circumstance demands, to prevent agitation when there are issues of delays and cancellations.On the solution to the problem, he called on airline owners to interline to minimise these issues of delays and cancellations.

“The best that can happen to Nigeria aviation is to have an interlining agreement. Most airlines if you have noticed have belts that they operate, early morning, towards afternoon, evenings. If they have this interlining agreement among themselves, you can use a ticket to fly on another if the main airline develops a technical problem. You can be endorsed on another airline to solve the problem.

“But somehow, the airlines are not interested. We have been fighting over this for a very long time. I know that during the time of some past DG’s, we have even got to getting reassurances that we are going to get to that but nothing like that has happened.”The Chief Operating Officer of one of the airlines, however, said there is more to tackling the problem of avoidable flight disruption than increasing the fleet size.

“What is the point in increasing the aircraft number when most of our airports are sunset airports? If all our aerodromes are like the Lagos and Abuja airports that run 24-hour services, then more than half of our problem would have been solved.“But today, I can tell you that our aircraft utilisation is still very poor. Our commercial planes fly between eight to 10 hours when our counterparts are doing over 18 hours. So, we are also running at a loss because of the poor infrastructure. The point is we need to collectively tackle the problem than keep pushing blames around.”


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Adamu AbdullahiNCAA
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