Emirates Airlines has suspended flights to the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos following the persistent hazy weather condition which has resulted in poor visibility. The affected flights were EK781/EK782: Dubai – Lagos – Dubai and EK783/EK784: Dubai – Lagos – Dubai.
The airline in a notice posted on its website said the affected passengers in Dubai can opt to travel to Abuja as an alternate sector or return to their journey start point if holding valid return tickets. Passengers booked or connecting in Dubai onto flights to Lagos will not be accepted for travel at the point of origin until 16th February.
Affected customers are advised to contact their travel agent or Emirates booking office to make changes to their bookings.” The airline said it is “monitoring the situation closely and will update our customers as the situation develops. Emirates apologizes for any inconvenience caused. The safety of our customers and crew is of utmost importance and will not be compromised,” the statement added.
It was reported that over 2,000 passengers of different airlines had their travel plans disrupted following the weather which has reduced visibility to below 800 meters minimal. The Federal Government had last year installed the Category 3 Instrument Landing System (ILS) which would enable aircraft to take off and land at zero visibility and also went ahead to procure the calibration plane worth $8.6m but the calibration is yet to be completed. British Airways, Lufthansa, KLM, Air France, Egypt Air, among other foreign airlines have been diverting flights to Accra, Ghana; Dakar, Senegal and other West African countries.
It was learnt that many passengers are still stranded in different hotels in Ghana and Nigeria waiting to be airlifted to their destinations. British Airways few days ago told our correspondent that over 600 of its passengers were affected. The Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika had during the week regretted the chaos at MMIA, the busiest airport in the country, noting “with great concern, the experiences of air travellers to and from the Murtala Muhammed International Airport Lagos regarding flight diversions and, in many cases, outright cancellations, which have been occasioned by highly inclement weather conditions.” In a statement by its spokesman, James Odaudu, Sirika said, “While these developments are greatly regretted, we wish to let the public know that the authorities at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos were in the process of replacing the old Category 2 Instrument Landing Systems with the newly procured Category 3 system that allows for the lowest visibility landing.
“Unfortunately, there was a malfunctioning of certain components, which, coupled with the unforeseen weather conditions, made landing at the airport difficult.” On the diversion of incoming international flights to neighbouring countries, the Minister reiterated “that the decisions are purely those of the airlines which we have no control over.” “However, it should be noted that those flights could, and should have been rerouted to the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport Abuja which is shorter or equidistant from Lagos to the foreign airports to which some of the flights have been diverted. “In recognition of Abuja as an alternate airport, Qatar airlines has applied to divert its flights to the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, to which the Minister granted immediate approval. It is left to be seen why some others decided to divert to another country. “We wish to use this medium to assure the general public that the comfort, safety and security of the flying populace remain the central focus of this administration and that no effort would be spared in ensuring this.”