Flight delays increase as harmattan haze hits airports
The number of delayed flights has increased in the last one week as harmattan haze continued to reduce visibility across some airports in the country.
The PUNCH gathered that both domestic and foreign airlines had been affected as the situation worsened in the last few days.
Sources within domestic airlines said cities in the South-south especially Asaba, Warri, Port harcourt, Benin and Calabar, were mostly affected.
One of the sources said airlines had had to delay flights almost on a daily basis since the last week in December.
Describing it as a general problem, the airline source explained that early morning flights out of Lagos were mostly affected.
The Media and Communications Manager, Dana Air, Kingsley ezenwa, said delays were usually frequent at this time of the year due to poor weather condition.
“Although it has been mostly delays, not outright cancellations but you know that once a flight is delayed, it will definitely have an effect on other flights for the day,” he added.
The Corporate Communications executive, Air Peace, Stanley Olisa, said the weather had been impacting more flights in the southern part of the country than the North.
Foreign airlines had also not been left out as British Airways was reported to have diverted its flights twice on Monday and Tuesday to Accra, Ghana over poor visibility at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos.
An Air France flight was also said to have been diverted to Cotonou, Benin Republic, before it later returned to Lagos.
The new Instrument Landing System installed in Lagos by the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency to aid aircraft landing during adverse weather is currently not in use.
NAMA in November said it had started the trial run of the newly installed Category III ILS at Runway 18 Right of the MMIA, Lagos.
The Managing Director of NAMA, Capt. Fola Akinkuotu, had stated that the agency was responding to the demands and clamour by airlines for better navigational facilities in the country.
he said there would be an improvement in flight operations in the country in the coming weeks and months.
Meanwhile the Nigerian Air Traffic Controllers’ Association has expressed displeasure over development.
In a statement signed by its President, Abayomi Agoro, NATCA said the sad event was occasioned by poor visibility and haze but more worryingly accentuated by the degraded state of navigational and landing facilities due to lack of calibration.
he said the association was equally concerned about the untold hardship the situation had visited on its members working in Lagos Terminal Approach position whose statutory responsibility is to ensure a round-the-clock safety in taking off and landing.
Agoro said, “We sincerely appreciate government’s huge investment in the upgrade of aviation infrastructure in the sector.
“NATCA is nevertheless concerned about the perennial state of degradation of the essential facilities and working tools with attendant increased stress and workload which in practical terms translate to serious safety implications for the flying public.
“NATCA, therefore, urges the relevant authorities to take immediate steps to restore the full serviceability of the navigational and landing aids to ensure an effective end to the uncalled hitches recently experienced and prevent the reoccurrence of same.”
he said it was not the time to apportion blames but for all hands to be on deck to ensure seamless safety regime and prompt navigational services.
The General Manager, Public Relations, NAMA, Khalid emele, said the agency’s navigational facilities were operating optimally but awaiting flight calibration in line with the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority and International Civil Aviation Organisation regulations and global best practices.
he said the idea behind the installation of CAT III ILS in strategic airports in the country was borne out of the need to enhance safety, efficiency, access and seamlessness of flight operations in the nation’s airspace, especially during the harmattan season.