• Thursday, July 18, 2024
businessday logo

BusinessDay

Explainer: Here are 10 causes of flight delays in Nigeria

Explainer: Here are 10 causes of flight delays in Nigeria

Flight delays in Nigeria have worsened in the last six months and passengers are worried that airlines hardly keep to scheduled flight time.

While airlines most times fail to communicate the actual reasons for flight delays, they generalise these reasons as technical reasons.

However, Airline Operators of Nigeria, (AON) recently shared with BusinessDay, top reasons for flight delays in Nigeria.

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

Some of the more prevalent causes of delays and cancellations include, but are by no means limited to the following:

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.

Inadequate aircraft parking space due to congested Aprons

According to AON, 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 a safety hazard to the industry.

Unfortunately, lack of planning by the concerned authorities 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.

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.

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.

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.

In addition to the primary causes of delays in the domestic airline system highlighted above, there are other ‘systemic’ issues identified by airline operators that limit the ability of domestic airlines to operate seamlessly and efficiently. These are but by no means limited to:

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.

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.

Read also: If Air Peace goes under, Nigeria’s economy will suffer – CEO United Nigeria Airlines

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.

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.

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.