The Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) yesterday decried the deplorable state of navigational aids at the nation’s airports.
AON Chairman Capt. Nogie Meggisson, stated this in a statement obtained by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Lagos.
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Meggisson said the situation had made flying in the Nigerian airspace difficult, especially during the harmattan, leading to flight cancellations.
The AON chief said this had increased the suffering of passengers and disrupted their plans for the festive season.
He recalled that 48 years ago, the first aircraft operated at CAT lll landed in zero visibility at Heathrow Airport in London, while Nigeria was unable to land an aircraft with visibility of about 800m.
Meggisson said : “Most international and local flights had to be diverted to Cotounou yesterday (Tuesday), which is rather unfortunate.
“The issue of the harmattan haze is a yearly seasonal occurrence as Nigeria has mainly rainy (thunderstorms) and dry seasons (harmattan).
“If the world has been landing in zero or virtually no visibility since December 28, 1968, today, 48 years later, why can’t Nigeria land with 800 metres of visibility?
“Why are the navigation aids not working or have not been upgraded over the years? Why is there no solution to this issue after 40 years of the airlines crying out?
“It is rather shameful that today in the 21st century, we are still talking of operating at CAT l and unable to land at 800m at our airports.”
According to him, for the past three days, the Murtala Muhammed Airport in Lagos was shut down until 6 p.m before flights could land.
He said no airline could fly while passengers were delayed with colossal loss of revenue to the operators.
Meggisson said: “A Dana Air flight, which departed Abuja at 10 a.m, could not land in Lagos but had to return to Abuja until 6 p.m before flying back. It still left about 500 to 600 passengers to various destinations stranded at the airport.
“This is very unfair to operators who cannot charge passengers for the extra cost the airline has to bear on return or cancelled flights. We had to feed and lodge them in a hotel.”
He urged the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) and the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) to ensure that the airports were equipped with the right landing aids to allow for 24 hours operations in any weather condition.
Meggisson said AON had been expressing concerns about the appalling situation because of its economic impact on them.
He said: “Fifty per cent of scheduled flights are delayed due to weather, shortage of jet fuel, inadequate screening machines at the terminal boarding exit points, insufficient parking for airplanes on the tarmac as well as VIP movement.
“How then can we make money to pay the high taxes and levies being imposed by the agencies and corporations or contribute our quota to the national Gross Domestic Product (GDP) this way?
“What we need is simple solutions: get better equipment. If we had CAT lll equipment at our airports, the airlines will fly well.
“The relevant agencies need to invest in modern navigation aids and runway lights so that we don’t have to come back next year to complain about the same thing, as we have done for so many decades.
“Also, the planned concession of airports might be a way forward, provided it is transparent and with a clear agenda. The concessionaire would make sure these landing aids are in place.”