AIR Peace, Dana Air and Max Air have been cited as airlines that recorded the most delayed flights at Nigerian airports in 2021.
However, in terms of the number of flights carried out in the year by a carrier over the number of delays, Overland tops the chart at 84 per cent, while Dana Air and Azman came second place with 64 per cent.
The next seven are United Nigeria 63 per cent; Max Air 61 per cent; Arik Air 57 per cent; Air peace 55 per cent; Aero Contractor 54 per cent; Green Africa 50 per cent and Ibom Air 26 per cent.
According to the 2021 annual report on international and domestic flight operations provided by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) and forwarded to our correspondent, a total of 74,537 flights were operated on domestic routes, while 9,675 flights were operated on international routes.
The data revealed that 41,328 flights were cancelled in 2021 on domestic routes, representing 55 per cent of such flights.
Air Peace recorded the highest number of flights, which was 17,861, as well as the most number of delayed flights, 9,908. Dana Air came second with a total number of 8,183 flights and 5,227 delayed flights. Max Air followed with 8,607 operated flights and 5,212 delayed flights, while Arik Air operated 9,024 flights and experienced 5,171 delays.
United Nigeria Airlines operated 6,408 flights, with 4,065 flight delays. Aero Contractors operated 6,973 flights, with 3,766 flights delays, while Ibom Air operated 9,551 flights, with 2,502 delayed flights.
Similarly, Azman Air operated 3,921 flights, with 2,494 flight delays, but Overland Airways operated 2,917 flights, with 2,441 delays, while Green Africa operated 1,092 flights, with 542 of the flights delayed.
All 10 of these airlines suffered 542 cancellations in the previous year, with Aero Contractors having 157; Air Peace, 126; and Max Air, 74.
Owing to the general backlash over its operations, Air Peace has been issuing daily flight updates this month, highlighting its daily setbacks.
Most of the updates on social media, signed by its management, have blamed flight delays and cancellations on low visibility, fuel scarcity and operational concerns from its principal, the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN).
For instance, on Tuesday, February 15, 2021, the airline blamed the delays of the Lagos-Port Harcourt, Lagos- Abuja, Lagos-Asaba and return trips on Lagos-Douala routes on the scarcity of aviation fuel, commonly known as JET A1.
This is not unconnected with the recent fuel queues in many parts of the country and the current spike in aviation fuel to N400 per litre, according to the Chairman of United Nigeria Airlines Obiora Okonkwo, in a recent interview.
Okonkwo warned that Jet A1 cost might even rise to N500 per litre before March 2022, saying there would be adjustments in the ticket price to bridge the cost, “otherwise the aviation industry will collapse.”
Air Peace has already listed on its Twitter account reasons for delays some of its flights would be experiencing today, Thursday, February 17, 2022.
An aviation consultant Olumide Ohunayo had suggested a round-table session of airlines and aviation agencies in a bid to tackle the endemic problem.
Ohunayo said, “Hammering only airlines will not solve the issue of flight delays. It may push the airline into rigid conditions that would backfire on the industry in general and probably increase the fares of tickets, which may have effects on the general travelling pattern. What I suggest is the need to have a public hearing on it and an NCAA-led conference where we hear from the airlines and the agencies. Here, we are looking at them having issues with the airport boarding gate early in the morning, transportation to the aircraft, etc. These issues add to the flight delays.”
He added, “Then, we have presidential flights, Nigeria Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) reportage, fuel supply, catering, ground handling, facilities in the terminal and then the Instrument Landing System (ILS). There are a lot of issues that require a summit where they (aviation agencies) would agree on the issue and proffer a way forward, which will then involve sanctions as well.”
Ohunayo argued that airlines should not be the only ones to bear the brunt of these issues, noting that agencies should attract sanctions as well.
A spokesperson for Arik Air Banji Ola blamed the flight cancellations on poor weather conditions, especially during the harmattan season.
“I am sure you saw our figures in December and January, where the weather was very bad, and we issued a statement then, advising passengers that due to weather conditions, flights may be delayed or cancelled. The majority of those cancelled flights were within that period – the harmattan period. Especially Sokoto, Warri and flights up north were affected,” Ola said.
Last December, the NCAA, in its Weather Advisory Circular dated November 29, 2021, and signed by NCAA Director-General Musa Nuhu, advised pilots and airline operators to delay, cancel or divert flights whenever they were threatened with visibility.
The circular, which drew on a weather forecast from the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMet), stated that the absence of rain in October in the North and late November/December in the South could cause severe dust haze and early morning fog, especially along the coastal areas.
It read, “Aerodrome visibility may fall below the prescribed operating minima, and in severe conditions, dust haze can blot out runways, markers and airfield lightings over wide areas, making visual navigation extremely difficult or impossible; and flights are bound to be delayed, diverted, or cancelled where terminal visibility falls below the prescribed aerodrome operating minima.”
A report published by Berkeley News put the cost of domestic flight delay at $32.9 billion in the U.S., with about half that cost borne by airline passengers. The study analysed data from 2007 to calculate the economic impact of flight delays on airlines and passengers, the cost of lost demand, and the collective impact of these costs on the U.S. economy. The study found that increased delays directly correlated with increased costs.
Just last week, the issue of flight delays and cancellations became a big deal when the Senate and House of Representatives committees on Aviation paid the Lagos airport a visit.
The senator representing Imo North Senatorial district Frank Ibezi urged the NCAA to report airline lateness as several hours were spent at airports in recent times due to flight delays, cancellations and changes.
Recently, the chairmen of Senate and House of Representatives committees on aviation Smart Adeyemi and Nnolim Nnaji, respectively, dismissed the excuses for flight delays and cancellations as not “totally genuine.”
Adeyemi said, “We are inviting all the airlines, the director-general of NCAA, service providers and stakeholders. We are going to look at the Civil Aviation Act with a view to doing something about it urgently.”
The lawmaker hit at all the carriers for allegedly hiding under the excuse of “bad weather and operational reasons to cause hardship and pain to travellers.”
He said that the committees would visit virtually all the airports in the country with a view to having a first-hand view of the decrepit state of some of the aerodromes and how they could make budgetary allocations to tackle the problem.
In response to the Senate Committee’s concerns, the Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) has listed 16 reasons why flights are delayed or cancelled.
Issues like weather, inadequate aircraft parking space, restrictions caused by sunset airports, delays due to VIP movement, frequent Bird Strikes and Foreign Object Damage (FOD) make up some reasons.
Others, as highlighted, are unavailability and the ever-rising cost of aviation fuel; unavailability of forex for spare parts and maintenance, delays from Customs in the clearing of safety-critical spare parts, poor air traffic flow, and inadequate check-in counters.
The domestic airline operators have also blamed inadequate screening and exit points at departure and unserviceable baggage claim machines (Carousel), inadequate and unreliable ground services equipment, unruly behaviour of passengers and failure to obey rules, lack of runway lights as well as unforeseen circumstances due to component failures and ground accidents.
These were revealed in a statement signed by Yunusa S. Abdulmunaf of the AON, Barr. Allen Onyema and endorsed by Alhaji Shehu Wada, among others.
***The report was updated to reflect the percentage delay over the number of operated flights.
Experienced Business reporter seeking the truth and upholding justice. Covered capital markets, aviation, maritime, road and rail, as well as economy. Email tips to email@example.com