There is not going to be any Easter weekend for hundreds of travellers who were stuck at the Murtala Mohammed Airport, Lagos, following massive flight delays by domestic airlines and a shortage of tickets as the few available airlines were fully booked.
Passengers travelling to Enugu from Lagos as well as other South-East and South-South cities had their flights delayed by three to five hours while as at midnight, hundreds of passengers were waiting for flights at the Nnamdi Azikwe Airport, Abuja.
Nigeria’s largest domestic carrier, Arik Air was fully booked on all its flights while its main competitor, Aero Contractor, has had its operations suspended due to a strike by its workers.
Other airlines such as Medview Airlines, IRS Airlines, Chanchangi Airlines and Overland Airways also had their flights fully booked.
Passengers have been facing hard times getting seats on the South-South and South-East routes such as Benin, Calabar, Uyo, Owerri and Enugu operated by only Aero and Arik.
Investigations also revealed that a major technical hitch to the passenger check-in system of a major airline at the General Aviation Terminal of the Lagos Airport during the early hours of the day had contributed to the delay. This caused a rescheduling of the airline’s flights during the day by an average of three hours.
A top official of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria at the GAT said, “The airline’s server was bad in the morning. This affected the passenger checking-in system. The server did not pick up until three hours later. In fact, the airline officials were already issuing boarding passes through the manual method before the server picked up three hours later.
“The delay in the morning affected every other flight throughout the day. Lagos to Enugu, Enugu to Abuja and other flights were affected by the delay.”
Further findings revealed that other intending passengers who came to buy tickets for the day were forced to postpone their flights till the next day.
A number of industry watchers had predicted that the suspension of flight operations by Aero Contractors as a result of an industrial action by its workers would cause a scarcity of flights.
The suspension of operations by Aerocontractors, the second largest domestic airline by passenger traffic, due to internal labour crises, had left the airline grounded for almost two weeks.
The airline’s management is battling its almost 1,300 employees who are protesting against alleged poor condition of service among other issues.
This was evident yesterday as passengers struggled to get seats aboard the few available flights.
Arik Air and Aero Contractors dominate domestic air travel in terms of large route networks.
Other domestic carriers such as Dana Air, IRS Airlines, Medview Airlines and Chanchagi Airlines operate from Lagos to Abuja and a few cities in the North.
The situation was taken advantage of by airport touts who connived with airline officials to raise fares astronomically for desperate travellers.
At the GAT, a one-hour flight that went for between N28,000 and N30,000 jumped up to N40,000.
This was also capitalized on by an airline which suddenly raised its fares.