Harmattan haze: Domestic airlines cancel more flights
Many domestic flights were on Wednesday delayed or cancelled outright as the harmattan haze, which the country has been experiencing in the last few weeks, became more serious.
The PUNCH correspondent gathered that apart from Lagos-Abuja-Lagos flights, which operated normally, flights on many other routes were cancelled due to the weather situation.
For instance, Air Peace’s Enugu, Calabar, Uyo and Benin flights were all cancelled, while many of the passengers heading to the eastern part of the country were taken to Owerri and Port Harcourt where the weather was said to be a bit manageable.
“What we did when the situation became critical was to take some of our passengers to the airports that were open and close to their destinations, and bring back the aircraft empty. It was a sacrifice we had to make to reduce the backlog of passengers,” the Corporate Communications Manager of Air Peace, Chris Iwarah, said.
He explained that the challenge was mostly at the destinations, adding that Abuja and Owerri were affected in the morning but became clearer later in the day.
The Chief Operating Officer, Med-View Airline, Lookman Animashaun, said though there were no cancellations, the airline, however, had to delay many of its flights for hours.
“Some were seriously delayed. This is the time for hazy weather and there is nothing anybody can do. For safety reasons, airlines will not compromise, so we either delay our flights or cancel them altogether. All airlines have their minima and most pilots will not compromise their safety,” he stated.
Animashaun added that only the Lagos and Abuja airports had the equipment for flight operations in the extreme weather and so were not affected like other routes, adding that the worst hit was the northern part of the country.
Iwarah said the situation again necessitated unpleasant reactions from passengers, adding that a passenger broke one of the systems belonging to the airline and was arrested.
The General Manager, Public Relations, Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, Sam Adurogboye, stated that airlines needed to sensitise their passengers more.
According to him, passengers should be informed via text messages or emails about delays and cancellations so as to prevent them from going to the airports.
“Ideally, airlines should let their passengers know the weather situation so that they don’t come to the airport at all. This weather issue does not just happen, there is always a forecast. This way, if a passenger proceeds to the airport and eventually destroys anything belonging to any airline, he will be arrested and prosecuted,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Nigerian Meteorological Agency has advised air travellers, road users and the public to exercise caution in their operations to avoid the negative effect of the current adverse weather condition.
NiMet’s Weather Alert on Wednesday in Abuja stated that the prevailing hazy weather would lead to flight delays and cancellations and urged travellers to always show understanding with the airlines.
It also advised road users to avoid excessive speeding, especially during the early morning period when horizontal visibility would be most impaired.
NiMet said, “The expected reduction in visibility due to harmattan dust haze will cause cancellation and delay of flights; this is for the safety of air travellers. Thick dust (visibility less than 1000m) is observed over Kano, Potiskum, Gombe, Nguru, Bida, Enugu, Asaba, Uyo, Jos, Minna, Ibadan, Lagos, and Port Harcourt.”