Enugu, Owerri passengers are causing problems for us, say airline operators

PHOTO: LAWRENCE NJOKU

Task FAAN on security, standards
Passengers flying to Enugu and Owerri in the Southeast have been causing a lot of problems for airlines operators at the domestic airport.

They have been very violent, blocking boarding gates, attacking airlines staff and passengers, as well as destroying property of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) over delays or cancellation of flights.

The most recent being the delay and cancellation of flights to Benin, Akure, Enugu, Owerri and Port Harcourt over poor visibility, which the airlines say, have reduced to as low as 400-800 meters.

Consequently, domestic airline operators have condemned the failure of security operatives at the nation’s airports to check the unruly behavior of passengers who react violently to flight delays and cancellation due to Harmattan haze, which affect flights at the end of every year.

The operators said over the years such incidents repeat themselves, while security operatives allegedly remain indifferent to such agitations, which also disrupt flight operations to other destinations not affected by unfavorable weather.

Since December 23, 2017 Harmattan haze reduced visibility at most airports in the southern part of Nigeria, which witness passengers surge during the Christmas festivities and particularly, Enugu and Owerri passengers have been extremely unruly and uncontrollably violent to the extent that some of the travelers in their midst were surprised by their reaction.

The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) had recently issued a statement warning passengers to desist from violent reactions when flights are cancelled or delayed because such actions were taken to ensure their safety.

It also issued directives to airlines and pilots to always abide by weather reports, which are critical to safe flight operations.

Some of the aggrieved travellers who spoke to The Guardian urged the FAAN and security agents at the airports to check the excesses of the passengers who often prevent others from boarding their aircraft, in the name of protesting delay or cancellation of their flights.

Speaking with newsmen in Lagos, some of the passengers said their Enugu-Owerri bound counterparts prevented them from boarding Air Peace flights in Lagos and Abuja for hours.

Phillip Opone told The Guardian that passengers travelling to Owerri prevented him from boarding his Abuja-Lagos flight for hours, claiming their flight was delayed.

He alleged that Enugu and Owerri and Enugu passengers were known for unruly conduct at the nation’s airports, saying his experience was the second time he would be prevented from boarding his own flight by those protesting alleged delay or cancellation of their flights.

The conduct of Owerri and Enugu passengers, he insisted, was a recipe for breakdown of law and order and full-scale chaos at the nation’s airports.

Another passenger, Patrick Omose, who had a near similar experience in Ghana, told The Guardian that the way and manner in which some of these passengers behave at the slightest delay had resulted to a situation where Ghanaians and other nationals pass uncomplimentary remarks on Nigeria and Nigerians.

“They always say do you think you are in Nigeria where you behave as you like and get away with it. They are always told, this is not Nigeria,” he said.

He, therefore, urged FAAN and security agents at the nation’s airports to ensure proper conduct by aggrieved passengers to avoid others resorting to self-help and disparaging Nigeria outside the shores of this country.

Reacting to the development, Corporate Communications Manager of Air Peace, Chris Iwarah described the Lagos and Abuja incidents as unfortunate.

He explained that the Enugu and Owerri flights were delayed because of weather and technical challenges, insisting that Air Peace would only operate flights when it would not endanger the lives of its passengers and crew in line with its uncompromising safety standards.

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