Dubai-based mega carrier, Emirates Airlines, has stopped flight operations to Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos until the airport’s Instrument Landing System (ILS) is fixed.
ILS is a navigational aid that guides aircraft to land, especially during low visibility.
Since last Monday, airlines, especially foreign carriers have been diverting flights destined to Lagos to Accra, Ghana and Dakar, Senegal due to Harmattan haze, which lowers visibility.
Last Thursday, Emirates diverted its Lagos flight to Accra and engaged domestic carrier, Arik Air to airlift them to Lagos. THISDAY learnt yesterday that Emirates recalled its three sets of crew stranded in Lagos since Monday and flew them to Dubai on a chartered flight via Abuja.
Reports indicate that over 1500 Nigerians are standard in Accra, Ghana as there were no adequate arrangements to airlift them from Accra to Lagos.
Some of them are staying in hotels paid for by airlines that diverted flight to the neigbouring country, while others were left to fend for themselves by the airlines.
According to reports, British Airways (BA) has already cancelled its flight to Lagos due to operational constraints.
In an email sent to passengers, the airline notified them of its plans to airlift those interested back to the United Kingdom.
It said: “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,” the email read.
“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 to www.ba.com/helpme.
“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.”
Delta Air Lines was also reported to have taken its Lagos based passengers back to the US when it could not land in Lagos.
However, the US based carrier diverted its previous flights to Accra and Dakar respectively.
The Harmattan haze reduced visibility below 800 meters minima, so airlines needed ILS to land but the Category 3 ILS, which enables aircraft to land at zero visibility was installed last year but the calibration was not completed so it could not be put in use.
So under the current dust haze occasioned by the Harmattan, it would be difficult to land at the airport, as the status at the airport could not meet many of the airlines’ standard operating procedure.
Many of the international carriers like British Airways, Lufthansa, Air France, KLM, Delta Air Line diverted flights and may also consider suspending flights to Lagos.
The airlines, aviation agencies have lost huge revenues over delays, flight cancellation and flight diversion, situations that left passengers stranded at the airports.
The Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika on Thursday apologised to airlines and passengers over the bad weather and malfunctioning ILS and said that the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) was working tirelessly to restore the ILS.
The minister expressed concern over the suffering of air travellers to and from the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos regarding flights diversion and, in many cases, outright cancellations, which have been occasioned by highly inclement weather conditions.
The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), which earlier issued a circular to pilots and airlines over the weather, has announced that the adverse weather may last till March.
It stated that the prevailing inclement weather was a global experience at the moment, which had warranted cancellation of in-bound international flights alike; therefore, not peculiar to Nigeria.
In statement signed by its spokesman, Sam Adurogboye, NCAA said: “Air-to-ground visibility may be considerably reduced due to dust haze; 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.”