By Sade Williams/Business a.m.
The Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) has condemned in the strongest terms recent attacks by some passengers on staff of Max Air and the wanton destruction of the airline’s properties due to a flight delay.
The association said the unfortunate development further heightens its deepest concern and worry over the increasingly deplorable state of security and the rising threat to the lives of airline staff and their properties at Nigerian airports.
“The airport vicinity is a sensitive and sacrosanct environment where people are not allowed to behave in callous and uncontrollable manner. A situation where passengers are allowed to have access into sensitive restricted areas of the airport and attack airline staff or prevent a plane from departing to other destinations because a particular flight is delayed or cancelled puts the country in a bad light in the international community.
“Issues of delay or cancellation can be addressed in a civil manner without resorting to violence. The unruly passengers that went after Max Air and destroyed the computer reservation systems further exacerbated the problem for other passengers going to other destinations. Such acts are completely unacceptable.
“AON understands the frustrations whenever a flight is delayed or cancelled and we apologise to passengers on behalf of airlines for such delays or cancellations. It is however instructive to note that delays happen worldwide and there are conditions that cause them.
“In Nigeria, 80% of the causes of delays and cancellations are due to factors that are not in the control of airlines. Airlines operating in Nigeria are forced to operate in an environment that is wrought with infrastructure deficiencies that are highly disruptive to normal schedule reliability and on time performance,” a statement signed by Abdulmunaf Yunusa Sarina, president of AON said.
Some of the more prevalent causes of delays and cancellations, according to AON include: unavailability and rising cost of Jet A1 (which today costs above N585 per litre in Lagos, N607 in Abuja and Port Harcourt, and N685 in Kano), inadequate parking space for aircraft on the apron sometimes leading to ground accidents, inadequate screening and exit points at departure, inefficient passenger access and facilitation, natural and unforeseen circumstances such as weather and catastrophic failures (e.g. bird strikes and component failures), and restrictions caused by sunset airports among others.
The AON appealed to passengers to express some restraint in expressing their displeasure or frustrations during flight delays or cancellation because the airline, within the prevailing circumstances could be complying with a safety procedure, obeying a regulation or facing certain difficulties beyond its immediate control.
“It is also necessary to put on record that while passengers are entitled to their rights, they also have some obligations and responsibilities. For instance, Part 19 of ‘Nig. CARs 2012, Vol. II’ highlights some rights and responsibilities of passengers.
“Item six (6) of the NCAA’s Notice on Passenger Obligations To Airlines/Service Providers requires passengers to: ‘Be of good behaviour at all stages of their journey,’” adding that, “Airlines and agencies have a zero policy for unruly behaviour.
“That all airport and airline staff deserve to be treated with respect and courtesy. An airline reserves the right to deny boarding/disembark a passenger for unruly behaviours. Passengers are also prohibited from interfering with flight crew and aircraft attendants.
“From the above therefore, we hereby appeal to the travelling public for calm, understanding and patience as well as the need to exercise the highest level of restraint and responsibility in expressing their frustration whenever their flights are delayed or cancelled” AON added.
AON also called on the federal government through the Ministry of Aviation and the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria to beef up security at the nation’s airports and ensure that the lives of airline staff and their properties are lawfully protected.
“May we state, also, that should a similar occurrence like the unfortunate case with Max Air happen to any of our member airlines going forward, AON may be forced to have a rethink on how to respond in such circumstances,” the association warned.