Max Air dumps Lagos passengers in Abuja, shifts Kano trip several times

ON Wednesday, June 28, one of Nigeria’s airlines, Max Air, dumped its passengers travelling from Kano to Lagos in Abuja for hours without any explanation.

The flight took off from the Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano, around 5:25 pm and arrived at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, at about 6:10 pm.

The airline’s crew allegedly asked the passengers to disembark and promised to put them on another aircraft some minutes later.

The passengers remained at the airport till 2:09 am the following morning before a flight flew them to the Lagos airport by 2:56 am.

Similarly, another aircraft by the operator from Abuja to Kano was scheduled for 8:20 pm that day, which was the first day of Eid-el-Kabir festivity. Some passengers (including this reporter) got to the airport and found that the aircraft will not take off as scheduled.

The staff on duty said they had rescheduled the flight for 9:40 pm.

Between 9:40 pm and 11:00 pm, there was no communication from the airline, either verbally or through the airport’s public address system. 

The ICIR discovered that the public address system and all air conditioning system at the departure hall were not working. There was much heat as passengers sweated profusely.

Lagos and Kano passengers travelling with Max Air were about two-thirds of all passengers waiting at the airport’s departure hall. They were apprehensive and angry. Some protested and walked down to the airline’s check-in counter on the ground floor to confront the staff. Others formed groups at the departure hall discussing how the airline is notorious for delaying passengers and shifting flights with impunity.

At precisely 11: 00 pm, one of the airline’s workers verbally called Kano passengers to proceed to board.

The passengers queued at the aircraft’s door on the tarmac, but a pilot from the plane addressed them and explained that the airline could not fly allegedly because of poor weather in Kano. The pilot’s claim could be untrue, as subsequent findings later revealed.

All passengers returned to the departure hall, this time more enraged.

At 11:28 pm, another announcement came verbally through a Max Air employee that the Kano passengers should proceed for boarding, leaving Lagos passengers behind.

The aircraft eventually touched down in Kano about 12:20 am.

Meanwhile, The ICIR reporter observed that the leather on the aircraft’s seats was peeling off, suggesting the aircraft might be old. Because the aircraft did not have many passengers, the reporter checked and observed that about 10 per cent of the seats were affected.

One of the seats on the Max Air flight VM1601 on Wednesday, June 28.
Photo credit: The ICIR/Marcus Fatunmole

Reasons for delay – Max Air

Meanwhile, the Kano manager for Max Air, Bello Ramallan, said the pilot who was to fly the Abuja aircraft to Kano became sick suddenly on his way to the airport, forcing the airline to look for another pilot “who lives in Nyanya,” 52 kilometres from the airport.

Ramallan’s explanation contradicts what the pilot told passengers on the tarmac in Abuja.

His claim also becomes more suspicious because the airline also blamed its failure to take its passengers from Lagos to Kano on a sick pilot in April 2022, after reportedly delaying for seven hours.

However, Ramallan said the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) allows a pilot to fly an aircraft to a maximum of seven different destinations in one day within Nigeria. “Four is the minimum, and seven is the maximum,” he stated, stressing that “the number of routes was reduced from 10 to seven because it overburdened the pilots”.

He apologised for the flight delays. “I want to apologise for what happened. It had been happening not just yesterday or the day before, especially in terms of delay and keeping quiet without (giving passengers) any information. It’s not deliberate. We are not happy with delaying people and keeping quiet, especially in Abuja and Lagos. We are unhappy with the habit of keeping quiet without informing the passengers. On behalf of Max Air everywhere, I want to apologise. 

“The delay came because the operating pilot was sick and unconscious; we had to look for someone to operate that flight. So, the flight was delayed for about two to three hours. The fault was that our staff in Abuja could have made the announcement, not to open up on what happened. People have had about a 30-minute delay and did not complain.”

The ICIR reports that Max Air has its head office in Kano.

Passengers react

A passenger on the flight, Muhammed Sumani Musel, a Canadian, said: “It is unfortunate that the biggest economy in Africa doesn’t have its domestic flight. It is really unfortunate that this is happening. I’m just speechless. I have nothing to say. Initially, they postponed our flight from Kano to 4:50 pm, Then we left by 5:50 pm. We came here and arrived at 6:30 pm. They told us it would be an hour’s delay. Then, we spent another hour. Now, it’s 11:00 pm; we are still here.”

Musel would like to sue the airline but would not because of the time and resources he said he would waste. “Ultimately, it is not economically feasible when you want to sort things out (in the court). It’s a lot of consumption of time and money.”

Another passenger, Benjamin Justice, said, “It is very embarrassing that we paid for Kano to Lagos, and they brought us to Abuja and dumped us as if we don’t have anything we are doing or we are just slaves.”

He said because of the delay he encountered earlier, he missed the first flight he was supposed to fly with to Lagos and had to pay extra funds to join the second airline that took him to Abuja instead of Lagos. 

He explained that he would not consider litigation because of his work which would not give him time.

Boye Odunayo, another passenger, said, “We’ve not been challenging them. That is the truth. We have a country where nothing is working. No sector is working. Nigeria is reaping what I can call a catastrophe of ineptitude, the catastrophe of celebrating merit on the altar of favouritism. Most of the people who handle sensitive offices in Nigeria are incompetent.”

He added: “It is a systemic thing. It is a systemic inefficiency. It has accumulated over time.

Some of Max Air’s flights at the Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano, on Wednesday, June 28.
Photo credit: The ICIR/Marcus Fatunmole

The ICIR contacted the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) to seek the organisations’ reaction to the delays.

The official in charge of complaints, Uloh Ikwo, urged this organisation to detail the incidents as a complaint and submit to a mail she provided.

She promised the NCAA would conduct an urgent probe into the complaint. 

History of Max Air’s flight delays and cancellations

Checks by The ICIR revealed that multiple reports in recent times show how Max Air, established in 2008 by the late business mogul Dahiru Barau Mangal, has delayed or flagrantly cancelled flights, leaving its passengers stranded.






     

     

    In September 2022, this organisation reported how the airline and two others topped delayed flights in the first quarter of that year.

    Another report that month showed how the operator cancelled a flight at midnight and left passengers stranded after five hours delay.

    In April 2022, one of Max Air’s pilots reportedly held passengers hostage for four hours in Abuja.

    The ICIR further reports that the airline rescheduled its flight from Kano to Abuja on Saturday, July 1. The flight was supposed to take off at 5:25 pm but was rescheduled for 2:00 pm.

     

     

    Marcus bears the light, and he beams it everywhere. He's a good governance and decent society advocate. He's The ICIR Reporter of the Year 2022 and has been the organisation's News Editor since September 2022. Contact him via email @ [email protected].

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