By Chinelo Obogo


The chairman of Air Peace Airline, Allen Onyema, has said that passenger behaviour constitutes the major cause of  flight delays in Nigeria and has led to airlines and the industry losing an estimated N15 billion annually.


In an interview on Arise TV, Onyema, quoting the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), said airlines contribute little to the cause of flight delays, but that in Nigeria, besides the weather, VIP movement and Aircraft on Ground (AOG), passenger behaviour is the major cause of delays and cancelled flights because Nigerian travellers have not embraced the culture of rescheduling when flights are cancelled, a policy that follows international standards and recommended practices.


He said the insistence of passengers whose flights are cancelled to be airlifted first the following day, gives rise to disruption of flights, which snowballs into weeks of delays and cancellations.


Onyema explained that airlines schedule the number of flights that must be operated by each aircraft but when a previous flight is cancelled, passengers’ insistence that they must be airlifted first before the airline operates its normal schedule, disrupts flight operations and emphasised that what passengers should reschedule their flights in accordance to the existing airline schedule.


He said that in doing so, subsequent flights will not be disrupted, delays and cancellations will drastically be minimised and insisted that this is the system that is operated in other parts of the world, except in Nigeria.


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“Apart from safety, security, weather and other issues, unruly passenger behavior and a misunderstanding of how airlines’ scheduled operations are supposed to be run, is the major cause of flight delays.


When weather is the cause of the delay or leads to cancellation at the end of the day, it is not the business of the airline to fly the passenger whose flight was cancelled first thing the next morning. All over the world, aviation is the same. The convention is, the passenger is expected to reschedule to the next available date. That is how it is done. In Nigeria, you want to fly, and you have three hours delay because of weather and the time weather clears, you want to go in, and there is airport closure, because most of the airport don’t run at night, the passenger will tell you, even though you put us in hotel, we will be the first ones to fly in the morning. It is not done like that, you reschedule to the next available date, because it is called scheduled flight operations.

Each aircraft does about six to eight flights a day; so, it is not only one disruption; you are talking about massive eight flights disrupted for that day. The other day we were flying into Warri, we could not land because of the weather. The pilot hovered for about 15 minutes, but for safety he diverted to Enugu because Benin was also covered by bad weather. They stayed on ground in Enugu for about an hour or two, then the weather cleared and the aircraft was fueled. The weather cleared for them to take off to Warri but the Warri airport was closed because it is a sunset airport.


“The pilot announced the closure of the airport because it is a sunset airport and said that the flight would return to base, which is Abuja. With that announcement there was pandemonium everywhere, as the passengers started protesting against that decision, they brought the aircraft down and the captain was almost crying. They kept that aircraft on ground in Enugu for four hours. They said we should put them in a hotel in Enugu. Why should I put you in a hotel in Enugu? Did I create the weather? Did I create the airport? That was a force majeure,” Onyema said.



He also explained that the aircraft refused to allow to take off from Enugu to Abuja was programmed to operate four other flights that included Kano and Port Harcourt, pointing out that passengers at the other airports waiting for the flight would not know that it was passengers that forced the aircraft not to take off.


“You will start first to bring in passengers of the previous day and will disrupt 40 flights in today’s flight schedule. It goes on like that for the next two weeks because you can never recover. You will never be able to recover, given the situation that most of your airport closes by 6:00 pm. In fact, you can’t recover.  It will only ease off after two weeks. God saves you if within those two weeks they don’t cause another problem for you, if that happens, it continues,” he said.