Home Airlines AON lists reasons why flights are delayed

AON lists reasons why flights are delayed

Passengers at MMIA, Lagos

The Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) says, commercial airlines globally, Nigeria inclusive, are set up with strict adherence to flight times.

These schedules, the body says, are put in place not only for the benefit of customers but also to allow the airlines maximize the use of their aircraft in order to meet up with their laid out targets over a period of time and ensure their safety and sustainability.

This is coming due to the recent bashing my members of the national assembly, passengers and the public due to recent incessant flight delays in the country.

According to AON President, Alhaji Yunusa Abdumunaf, in a statement notes that, it is not in the interest of any airline, whether in Nigeria or anywhere else, to delay or cancel flights as this has severe financial and image consequences. For these reasons, delays and cancellations are therefore the last thing any airline wants.

“While flight delays and cancellations occur all over the world, it is however instructive to note that in Nigeria, 80% of the causes of delays and cancellations are due to factors that are neither in the control of airlines nor caused by them”.

The AON stresses that, the public should be aware that airlines operating in Nigeria are forced to operate in an environment that is wrought with infrastructure deficiencies that are highly disruptive to normal schedule reliability and on time performance. 

“Any airline in the world forced to operate under the domestic Nigerian circumstances would be bogged down by delays that they have no control over”.

The Operators have unanimously agreed to lay bare their challenges which has painted the industry black in the eyes of the public because of flight delays.

Some of the more prevalent causes of delays and cancellations the AON listed primary and systemic causes to include:

Primary causes

1.      Weather – Due to the lack of basic navigational and visual aids at most airports across the country, airlines are forced to delay flights unnecessarily, waiting for visibility to improve either at departure or destination airports. This is the major cause of delays in the months of October to March every year (with the harmattan dust haze and fog) and this impacts the entire system significantly. Almost every morning, the first flights to several destinations are delayed, affecting the schedule of the airline for the rest of the day. This issue of lack of navigational and visual aids at most of the airports in the country accounts for more than 50% of the delays in the system, for which airlines unfairly always take the fall. This would easily be avoidable if the requisite infrastructure was put in place across the network of airports. Thankfully, airlines will never jeopardize safety, but will rather choose to wait for weather conditions to improve or be forced to cancel flights if the situation persists.

2.      Inadequate aircraft parking space due to congested Aprons – Both domestic terminals in Lagos (popularly known as GAT and MM2), which are the main hubs and turnaround points for the vast majority of the local industry, are severely capacity constrained to the point of constituting asafety hazard to the industry. Unfortunately, lack of planning by the concerned authroities over the years has led to a deficit in airside infrastructure at both terminals, causing aircraft to park in a chaotic manner, where many aircraft get hemmed in by other aircraft. Apart from the chaos and unsafe conditions this congestion causes, it results in unnecessary delays as aircraft are frequently forced to wait for other aircraft to be pushed back first, before they can depart.

3.      Restrictions caused by Sunset Airports – Again, because of a deficit in navigational and visual aids, most of the airports in Nigeria are open between 6am and 6pm. Once an airline misses this window as a result of one or more of the above mentioned delays, airlines are forced to cancel scheduled flights to such destinations.

4.      Delays due to VIP movement – The practice of closing the airspace for security reasons to allow the President, Vice President or other VIPs to either depart or arrive, is a significant causal factor of unpredictable and unforeseeable delays in the system. This is no fault of airlines but yet another delay cause for which the domestic airlines take the fall for the entire system on a daily basis.

5.      Frequent Bird Strikes and Foreign Object Damage (FOD) – Bird strikes and Foreign Objects damage many aircraft during landing, taxiing or takeoff at airports across the country, thereby forcing the aircraft to be parked abruptly until a replacement can be marshaled to operate a flight. A lot can be done about this by the concerned authorities, but the airlines again bear the brunt of the failue to address this key issue.

Systemic causes 
6.      Unavailability and ever rising cost of Aviation Fuel – JetA1 today costs above N410 in Lagos, N422 in Abuja and Port Harcourt, and N429 in Kano per litre and has continued to rise fast and steadily. On top of the continuous rise in the fuel price, fuel supply is at best epileptic at several airports thereby causing delays. Supply nationally is at best unpredictable and several times a day, airlines are standing, waiting for fuel to be supplied at airports across the country.

7.      Unavailability of Forex for spare parts and maintenance – Airlines carryout most of their activities in dollars which today sells for between N580 to N600 and is in short supply. Nigeria’s domestic airlines are in a ‘life and death’ struggle to secure the Forex they need to acquire their spare parts to maintain their aircraft. This is a major influence on how quickly a grounded aircraft can be fixed and restored to its flight schedule, which in turn has a huge impact on the schedule reliability of the domestic airlines.

8.      Delays from Customs in clearing of Safety critical spare parts – Many airlines cannot clear their aircraft spare parts for weeks or months due to Customs bottlenecks.

9.      Poor air traffic flow – Sometimes airlines have to wait on the ground in a queue for long periods before being given clearance for takeoff. This goes a long way to affect its arrival and next departure times.

10.  Inadequate Check-in Counters – Check in capacity at the major airports in the country is far below the requirement for on time performance. In both domestic terminals in Lagos as well as in Abuja, airlines are forced to check-in passengers going to various destinations from very few check-in counters, causing long queues and delays in processing of passengers. Because of this, in general, the check-in experience of a Nigerian domestic passenger is more often than not an unpleasant one.

11.  Inadequate screening and exit points at departure – Passenger and baggage screening capacity at many domestic airports, especially at both domestic terminals in Lagos and in Abuja is very poor and insufficient to serve the numbers of passengers that get processed through these airports. This issue causes delays on a regular basis at peak times and forces aircraft to stay on ground for longer periods, delaying those particular flights and further scheduled flights of the affected aircraft.

12.  Unserviceable Baggage Claim Machines (Carousel) – The baggage processing and baggage claim experience for Nigerian domestic passengers is generally unpleasant and this speaks for itself. Again, this is due to a glaring infrastructure planning deficit on the part of the concerned authorities and even on this matter, the airlines become the fall guys.

13.  Inadequate and unreliable Ground Services Equipment for Boarding and Disembarkation of passengers – At many airports, ground handling equipment are inadequate to serve the needs of the airlines as and when needed. Sometimes there is only 1 set of stairs expected to service several airlines in turns. Hence passengers are forced to remain onboard while one airline is being serviced, causing further delays in the system.

14.  Unruly behavior of passengers and failure to obey rules – Sometimes when a flight is delayed and another flight going to the same destination is called; some passengers become unruly and block other passengers of the announced flight from boarding thereby keeping the aircraft on ground for long periods and delaying operations to other destinations.

15.  Lack of Runway Lights – Sometimes airlines are forced to taxi for long periods due to unavailability of runway lights on a particular runway. This further extends the operational time between flights.

16.  Unforeseen circumstances due to component failures and ground accidents – An aircraft could sometimes develop a snag or equipment failure. At other times an accident may occur on the ground caused by a handling equipment or other occurrence. No airline will take the risk of flying in such circumstances. Airlines will rather fix the problem or find an alternative to ensure the safety of passengers.

The AON therefore solicited the awareness and understanding of the general travelling public to the above issues as its member airlines continue to work hard together to get passengers to their destinations safely and expeditiously as possible.

“Most importantly, AON invites the public to note that if these ‘fixable’ issues were to be fixed today by the concerned authorities, the frequent delays passengers experience in the domestic system would immediately reduce by 80%”.

AON adds, “We would therefore also like to urge High Profile and Respected Public Office holders to seek for information first so that they have the insights they need to help solve the solvable problems that hinder the domestic air transport system. This is what we expect from them”.