Nigerian airlines under the auspices of the Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) say the reasons for the delays on flight schedule are beyond their control.
Obiora Okonkwo, a representative of AON, spoke on Wednesday when he appeared before the house of representatives committee on aviation.
The committee is investigating disrupted services of airline operators in the country.
Speaking at the investigative hearing, Okonkwo listed the reasons for flight delays to include poor facilities at airports, bad weather, unruly passengers and bird strike.
“Every flight delay in Nigeria has been blamed on operators and all operators can say or are allowed to say to a very large extent is: ‘due to operational reasons’,” he said.
“This is by the regulation, because sometimes, you are not expected to go outside these reasons. We are not in any way giving reasons to justify anything, but we are saying that when there are delays on flight schedules, 80 to 90 percent of them are beyond the control of the operators.
“Airline is one thing that is known around the world that has to do with schedule and timing. Also, aircraft are made to fly. For an operator that has engineers, officers, pilots, captains and every investment, the only time you make money is when the tickets are sold and the passenger utilises the ticket because you can still sell the ticket and if the person comes to the airport and there is a flight delay, he or she demands refund, which is his/her right.
“So, everything you do from morning to night, from staff A to staff Z is how to get your flight on schedule, and while considering that schedule, you have to guarantee safety.”
‘LACK OF INFRASTRUCTURE’
Okonkwo also told the legislators that most airports in the country don’t have the infrastructure to enable aircraft leave at the scheduled time, especially in the morning.
“If you go to MMA 2 for instance, you have one, two counters where people are checking in. If you go to the boarding places, they are restricted, and then you have to take turn by turn,” he said.
“Even if you have checked in your passengers before 6am and you have announced boarding, you have to wait until it gets to your turn.
“Sometimes, it could take one hour and when it takes one hour to finish the airport processes of checking and boarding, then you have to queue for the control tower for a sign to take off which could lead to another queue.
“Those delays on a very bad day could cause an aircraft loaded with passengers to delay by one hour and a half. When this is happening by 6:30 am, cumulatively it will affect your flight by 4pm because it is the aircraft that will touch base somewhere, stop at another place, before it gets to you by 4pm.”
The airline operators also said some passengers cause delays by preventing an aircraft from leaving at the scheduled time.
“If for instance, in the course of that, you have a situation like an honourable here who has landed at Ibadan and refuses to get out of the plane, we call such an unruly passenger,” he said.
“You might be surprised to know that sometimes, an aircraft can be kept on the ground for two hours because there is a passenger inside the plane who is causing some issues.
“This additional delay of about one hour in Ibadan will affect the next cycle because they are going to stop over to pick up another passenger.”
Okonkwo added that very important persons (VIP) are sometimes responsible for flight delay.
“You can imagine when you have waited one hour or one and a half hours in Lagos and you have taken off to land in Abuja. And when you get to Abuja airspace and there is VIP movement, you cannot control that,” he said.
“You have to wait as long as it takes the VIP movement before you are cleared for landing. And when you land, before now operators could say because of VIP movement, but today, we have been restricted not to mention VIP so that the blame should not go to somebody else.”
The airline operators’ representative also listed bad weather and ground handlers as other factors affecting flight schedules, and urged the federal government to take the necessary steps to improve the situation.