Airline operators have threatened to suspend flights pending when the government would provide modern landing aids that would enable them fly with minimum visibility as obtained in other countries, including West African nations.
They berated the federal government for its failure to provide modern landing aids that could facilitate flight operations when there is harmattan and hazy weather and lamented the huge losses they incur due to inadequate supply of aviation fuel and flight disruptions at the peak of the Christmas holidays.
The airlines said the Nigerian airports still have category one visibility rules of 800 metres, which makes it unable for airlines to operate during the harmattan westher, but small and less developed countries like Togo, Benin Republic have category two visibility rules because they have the landing aids that can enable flights to land even in less than 200 meres visibility.
The operators also complained that 50 per cent of their flights are cancelled due to lack of aviation fuel, inadequate infrastructure, like airfield lighting and bad weather that could be managed with better navigational equipment, so the airlines lose money and the passengers activities are disrupted.
The Chairman of Airlines Operators of Nigeria (AON), Captain Nogie Meggison, made this known yesterday during a press conference in Lagos, saying many of the airlines have grappled with suspension of operations due to the difficulty they go through and the failure of government to take action to rectify these problems.
Meggison noted that exactly 48 years yesterday on December 28, 1968, the first aircraft operated at category three status in zero visibility at Heathrow Airport in London, yet Nigeria is unable to land aircraft with visibility of about 800 meters.
“Most international and local flights had to be diverted to Cotonou last Tuesday night), which is rather unfortunate. The issue of the harmattan 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, yesterday 48 years later on December 28, 2016, on the anniversary of the first category three landing at Heathrow Airport, London, Nigeria still can’t land with 800 meters of visibility?
“Why are the navigation aids not working or 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 800 metres at our airports,” he explained
He disclosed that for the past three days, the Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos was shut down until 6p.m. before flights could land. Hence no airline could fly and passengers were delayed with colossal loss of revenue to the operators.
“This is very unfair to operators who cannot charge passengers for the extra cost the airline has to bear on return or cancelled flights and we have to feed and lodge them in a hotel. The Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) and the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) need to be more responsible to ensure that our airports are equipped with the right landing aids to allow 24hours operations in any weather condition,” Meggison said.