Sirika Apol­o­gises to Pas­sen­gers over Flight Di­ver­sions by Air­lines

• Says for­eign air­lines should have con­sid­ered Abuja

THISDAY - - FRONT PAGE - Chinedu Eze in Lagos and Kasim Su­maina in Abuja

The fed­eral gov­ern­ment has apol­o­gised to air trav­ellers over the can­cel­la­tion and de­lay of flights since the past four days and at­trib­uted it to bad weather and mal­func­tion­ing In­stru­ment Land­ing Sys­tem (ILS).

This is just as a new Nige­ria air­line, Green Africa, has or­dered 50 new air­craft from

Air­bus.

The Min­is­ter of Avi­a­tion, Senator Hadi Sirika, in a state­ment signed by the Di­rec­tor, Pub­lic Af­fairs, Min­istry of Avi­a­tion, James Odaudu, ex­pressed con­cern over the suf­fer­ing of air trav­ellers to and from the Mur­tala Muhammed In­ter­na­tional Air­port (MMIA), Lagos re­gard­ing flights di­ver­sion and, in many cases, out­right can­cel­la­tions, which have been oc­ca­sioned by highly in­clement weather con­di­tions.

“While these de­vel­op­ments are greatly re­gret­ted, we wish to let the pub­lic know that the au­thor­i­ties at the Mur­tala Muhammed In­ter­na­tional Air­port in Lagos were in the process of re­plac­ing the old Cat­e­gory 2 In­stru­ment Land­ing Sys­tems with the newly pro­cured Cat­e­gory 3 sys­tem that al­lows for the low­est vis­i­bil­ity land­ing. Un­for­tu­nately, there was a mal­func­tion­ing of cer­tain com­po­nents, which, cou­pled with the un­fore­seen weather con­di­tions, made land­ing at the air­port dif­fi­cult.

“The pro­cure­ment of the Cat­e­gory 3 In­stru­ment Land­ing Sys­tem is in pur­suance of the de­sire of the fed­eral gov­ern­ment to en­sure the safety of air pas­sen­gers by en­sur­ing that air­planes can land with al­most zero vis­i­bil­ity. We wish to as­sure the pub­lic and the air­lines, that ef­forts are on to re­turn the sys­tem to full work­ing con­di­tion and that nor­malcy of op­er­a­tions will be reestab­lished in due course,” the min­is­ter said.

On the di­ver­sion of in­com­ing in­ter­na­tional flights to neigh­bour­ing coun­tries, Sirika also said, “We wish to re­it­er­ate that the de­ci­sions are purely those of the air­lines which we have no con­trol over.”

The min­is­ter equally ob­served, how­ever, that the flights that were di­verted to neigh­bour­ing coun­tries could, and “should have been rerouted to the Nnamdi Azikiwe In­ter­na­tional Air­port, Abuja which is shorter or equidis­tant from Lagos to the for­eign air­ports to which some of the flights have been di­verted.”

He noted that in recog­ni­tion of Abuja as an al­ter­nate air­port, Qatar Airways has ap­plied to di­vert its flights to the Nnamdi Azikiwe In­ter­na­tional Air­port, to which the min­is­ter granted im­me­di­ate ap­proval.

“It is left to be seen why some oth­ers de­cided to di­vert to an­other coun­try. We wish to use this medium to as­sure the gen­eral pub­lic that the com­fort, safety and se­cu­rity of the fly­ing pub­lic re­mains the cen­tral fo­cus of this ad­min­is­tra­tion and that no ef­fort would be spared in en­sur­ing this,” he said.

More flights were ei­ther can­celled or di­verted yes­ter­day, as do­mes­tic air­lines ex­plained to its pas­sen­gers that the dis­rup­tion of flights was caused by the weather.

Mean­while, Green Africa Airways, Nige­ria’s Lagos-based air­line, has signed a Mem­o­ran­dum of Un­der­stand­ing (MoU) with the Europe-based air­craft man­u­fac­tur­ing com­pany, Air­bus for 50 A220-300 air­craft, one of the ma­jor or­ders to be placed glob­ally for the A220 pro­gramme and the largest ever from the African con­ti­nent.

Founder & CEO of Green Africa Airways, Babawande Afo­labi said, “To­gether with Air­bus, we are in­cred­i­bly proud to an­nounce the largest order ever for the A220 from the African con­ti­nent. The Green Africa story is a story of en­tre­pre­neur­ial bold­ness, strate­gic fore­sight and an un­wa­ver­ing com­mit­ment to us­ing the power of air travel to cre­ate a bet­ter fu­ture.”

Air­bus Chief Com­mer­cial Of­fi­cer, Chris­tian Scherer, speak­ing from the Sin­ga­pore Air­show, added, “We are ex­cited about the Green Africa project, its le­git­i­mate am­bi­tion and its pro­fes­sion­al­ism, ev­i­denced by their most dis­cern­ing choice for their op­er­at­ing as­sets. The unique char­ac­ter­is­tics of the A220 will al­low the air­line to un­lock des­ti­na­tions and route pairs that pre­vi­ously would have been con­sid­ered non-vi­able. We look for­ward to our part­ner­ship with Green Africa and to ac­com­pany their de­vel­op­ment with the most ef­fi­cient air­craft in its class.”

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