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Flight delay/cancellation: Senate rattles airline operators

Air Peace chief bemoans unruly passenger behavior

Airline operators under the aegis of Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) have justified the delay and cancellations of domestic flights in the country, hinging the reasons on non-availability and rising cost of aviation fuel, also known as JetA1, and inadequate parking spaces at airports.

The operators, led by the Chairman of Air Peace, Mr. Allen Onyema, stated this on Tuesday when they appeared before the Senate Committee on Aviation chaired by Senator Smart Adeyemi. He also demanded the prosecution of unruly passengers at the airports. Onyema claimed that on several occasions, JetA1 had been very scarce nationwide and this has been affecting airline operations around the country. However, members of the committee kicked against the reasons presented by the operators, noting that something must be done by to address the causes of delays and cancellations in domestic airline operation. Specifically, Senator Abba Moro said that the excuses by the operators were not the tradition in other countries across the world.

Onyema disclosed that at times the operators go the extra mile to fulfill their obligation to customers by looking for fuel at the black market. He said: “Apart from the fact that the shortage of Jet A-1 is crippling our operations, the marketers have been increasing the price of the product consistently in the recent past to an unbearable point. “As of April this year, Jet A-1 fuel was being sold for about N230 a litre. About a month ago in May, the price jumped to between N250- N255.

“As of today, the price has skyrocketed to an av-erage of N280- N300 a litre depending on if you are buying in Lagos or Abuja. This has greatly increased our operational cost.” He also hinged the cancellation and delay of flights on inadequate parking spaces for aircraft. He further explained that during the rush hour between 6.39am – 8.30 am, there were usually between 14-15 aircraft departures out of the local airport in Lagos. Unfortunately, he said, the apron at Murtala Muhammed Airport, Ikeja, Lagos, could only accommodate a maximum of six aircraft at a time while the newly built apron can accommodate another three or four aircraft.

This means jostle for parking space, which also causes delay. Other reasons cited by Onyema were non-availability of forex for spare parts and maintenance, sudden change of weather,delay due to VIP movement, inefficient passenger access and facilitation, delay clearance of spare parts from Customs and inadequate screening and exit points at departure. On the unruly behaviour of some passengers, Onyema called for the prosecution of some passengers who behave unruly at the airport. He lamented that some passengers usually assaulted airline staff for no just reason while some of their computers have been destroyed by these passengers.

The Chairman of the Committee, Adeyemi said that the purpose of the meeting was to address the issue of causes of delay and cancellations of domestic flights. He also said the panel was concerned about the state of the airport across the country and safety measures put in place.

 

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