Bad weather forces cancellation, diversion of flights

THE PUNCH Newspaper-Dayo Oketola

The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority on Monday, warned airlines operating in the country against flying in the hazy weather condition, which began over the weekend in order to ensure passengers safety.

This was after almost all domestic flights from the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos were cancelled, while stranded passengers hoped for a respite.

The Director-General, NCAA, Dr. Harold Demuren, in an Advisory Weather Circular issued to the airlines and their pilots directed strict compliance with weather requirements for flying.

Demuren said that the warning became necessary following the current harmattan dust haze, which started moving from the North to the southern part of the country on Saturday.

Assuring that the NCAA and the Nigerian Meteorological Agency were on top of the situation in terms of monitoring, Demuren asked passengers to expect more flight cancellations and urged them to cooperate with the airlines.

The weather condition, according to the spokesman, Nigerian Airspace Management Agency, Mr. Supo Atobatele, led to temporary suspension of take-off and landing at the Lagos Airport on Monday.

He stated that it was mandatory for the space management agency to suspend landing and take off whenever there was poor visibility at the airport.

Atobatele said, “There is what we call weather minima that must be observed at all airports. Once it is lower, mandatorily, you don‘t allow flights to takeoff or land. The weather minima for Lagos is 1,000 metres and it reduced this (Monday) afternoon, so we had to suspend take off and landing.”

He noted that an Emirate flight from Dubai was, as a result, diverted to the Abuja Airport.

Our correspondent, however, gathered that the flight could not land in Abuja and had to go to Ghana. Another Virgin Nigeria flight from Abidjan was also said to have landed in Ghana as a result of the adverse weather condition.

A Lagos-bound Aero flight from Abuja was also said to have headed for Ghana when it could not land in Lagos due to very poor visibility.

Atobatele, however, told our correspondent over the telephone on Monday evening, that flights had started taking off from and landing at the Lagos airport as the weather improved.

Our correspondent, who visited the MMA 2, found that Chanchangi Airline, IRS and Virgin Nigeria among others, were already refunding air fares to their passengers.

Passengers were seen sitting on the floor of the departure hall of the MMA 2 after waiting for several hours for the weather to get better. They, however, lamented the absence of seats in the hall and urged the concessionaire to correct the anomaly.

Many of the passengers, who spoke with our correspondent, expressed disappointment over the flight cancellations but agreed that it was the right thing to do for safety reasons.

The Nigerian Meteorological Agency had earlier said that a significant build up of surface pressure systems over the Sahara Desert and the Sahel regions had caused significant reduction in horizontal visibility over the extreme north-eastern part of the country.

”Places around Maiduguri, Potiskum, Nguru and Kano are presently experiencing severe harmattan dust haze with the associated reduction in horizontal visibility to less than 800m. Consequently, flight operations in some airports in the affected states have been disrupted,” it said.


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