The tripartite House of Representatives committees on aviation, commerce and human rights investigating the unprecedented flight delays and cancellations in recent times have identified lack of collaboration and coordination among the various stakeholders as major contributory factors to the problems.
At the investigative hearing coordinated by Nnolin Nnaji, the aviation committee chairman, it was decided that the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), and the service providers, the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), as well as the handling companies should meet with airlines and come up with well thought out plans on how to address the issue.
Obiora Okonkwo, chairman, United Nigeria Airlines, had earlier painted a gloomy pictures of how the cumulative loss of time, ranging from ticketing canters to the congestion at the aircraft parking area, the apron, delay in start up permit from the control tower and the congestion at the taxiway before take off as part of the challenges pushing up the delays.
He stated that, “once the flight is delayed in take off at any schedule it leads to the delay in the next leg of the operation and that’s how it builds up.”
Okonkwo further listed the general poor airports’ infrastructure, inadequate handling equipment at some airports and the problems of weather, as well as closure of airspace during very important personality (VIP) movements, as part of the contributory factors to the flight delays.
Okonkwo also pointed out that most of the airports the domestic airlines operate into were designated visual flights aerodromes (VFR), which means that you have to operate to such airports before sunset adding that, “once you can’t take off and land at such airports before 6:30 pm you have to cancel the operation.”
Allen Onyema, chairman, Air Peace, also stated that because of the visual flight rule, the airlines were constrained to twelve hours use of an aeroplane in a day, instead of eighteen hours, adding that, “what it means is that an operator who leased an aircraft for his operations is already losing from take off.”
Onyema added that if the majority of the airports could be opened to traffic at least up to midnight, it would offer the operators better utilisation of the aircraft, stating that with such development, an aeroplane could be deployed to operations for up to eighteen hours per day.
Rabiu Yadudu, managing director, Federal Airports Authority, (FAAN), who acknowledged that the industry was encountering an infractural gap noted that such was not enough to justify delays of up to two to three hours and above, which the airlines had in recent times subjected passengers to.
He disclosed that the authority has begun to expand the aprons at the general aviation terminals in Lagos and Abuja to address the issue of congestion and promised to collaborate with sister agencies and the airlines as directed by the committee to see how the problems of delays could be tackled .
Nnaji noted that the industry was pivotal to the development of the national economy and stressed the need for the federal government to invest more in aviation so that many more airports could operate beyond sunset ( beyond 6 pm).