Five days after airlines started diverting flights to Accra, Cotonou and Dakar over low visibility at Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), over 1000 Nigerians have remained stranded at the Kokota International Airport in Accra, Ghana.
While some advanced airports operate under as low as zero visibility, the foggy weather in Lagos has kept aircraft on ground and left thousands of passengers stranded at neighbouring countries to which these flights were diverted.
Experts in the aviation sector have continued to blame the situation on the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) for failure to provide functional Instrument Landing Systems, (ILS) to enable airlines take-off and land at the MMIA Lagos.
BusinessDay’s checks show that from Monday to Saturday, the number of diverted flights has risen to 30.
Emirates and British Airways have cancelled their flights to Lagos pending when the situation gets better.
Already, British Airways has announced plans to airlift their affected passengers back to the United Kingdom (UK). The airline cited operational constraints.
On Friday, PRNigeria obtained the mail the airline sent to passengers.
It reads: “BA075-We would like to sincerely apologise for the disruption to your journey to Lagos. Due to adverse weather at the airport, we were unable to safely land into Lagos Airport. If you wish to travel from Accra – London Heathrow, there are limited availability of seats to book on.
“Please speak with our colleagues at the airport to adjust your ticket, subject to availability. BA078 Accra – London Heathrow is scheduled to depart at 23:00 local time. Please submit your receipts for claims hotels, transport, refreshment, the cost for calls and internet access & transport.
“Our Customer Relations team will review each case on an individual basis. We understand this is not what you expect when you travel with us and apologise for the significant inconvenience we have caused to your journey.”
However, a source close to British Airways said the airline was making plans to engage charter airline operators to bring back stranded passengers to Lagos from Accra, Ghana.
The source who described the weather phenomenon as worse in recent times, said safety was more important than trying to land in an airport with poor visibility occasioned by Harmattan which has made both domestic and foreign carriers divert flights.
‘We have engaged airline in a charter arrangement to help bring back stranded passengers. It is at a huge cost to us but we need to take care of our passengers, feed them and accommodate them in hotels’”.
Meanwhile, the fares for Accra-Lagos flights by Ghana’s domestic airlines have since been hiked due to increasing passenger traffic.
Hadi Sirika, the Minister of Aviation, said the authorities at Lagos airport were in the process of replacing the old Category 2 Instrument Landing Systems with the newly procured Category 3 system that allows for the lowest visibility landing, but unfortunately, some of the components malfunctioned, which, coupled with the unforeseen weather conditions, made landing at the airport difficult.
Sirika in a statement said the procurement of the Category 3 Instrument landing System was in pursuance of the desire of the Federal Government to ensure the safety of air passengers by ensuring that airplanes can land with almost zero visibility.