By Lawani Mikairu
More than 1,500 Nigerians have been stranded in Kotoka International Airport, Accra, Ghana after they were dumped there by British Airways, BA, Delta Air, and other foreign airlines. Their flights were diverted by these foreign airlines to Ghana due to the inclement weather in Lagos and poor visibility at the Muritala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos.
Instead of thinking of alternate airport within Nigeria where visibility is good for landing, these foreign carriers took the unilateral decision to divert their flights to Ghana and subject Nigerians who had urgent engagements in Nigeria to untold hardship. British Airways is reported to have told some of the stranded Nigerians who could not get airlines from Ghana to bring them to Nigeria that they will take them back to Britain if they can no longer endure their hardship at the Accra airport in Ghana.
In their advisory, British Airways said: “ We would like to sincerely apologise for the disruption to your journey to Lagos. Due to adverse weather at the airport, we were unable to safely land into Lagos Airport. We regret to inform that due to the operational constraints, we have had to cancel this flight. We recommend you make your own travel arrangements to Lagos as we are unable to operate safely in the coming days.”
“If you wish to travel from Accra to London, Heathrow, there are limited availability of seats to book on. Please speak with our colleagues at the airport to adjust your ticket, subject to availability. BAO78 Accra to London Heathrow is scheduled to depart at 23.00 local time,” it added. The advisory further said,“ We understand this is not what you expect when you travel with us …..”
The Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika while expressing concern over the diversion noted that the flight diversions and, in many cases, outright cancellations, due to the inclement weather conditions were regrettable. He, however, decried the diversion of flights to other country stating that the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja could have conveniently handled those flights revealing that Qatar Airways is already diverting Lagos bound flights to Abuja.
Sirika said: “On the diversion of incoming international flights to neighbouring countries, we wish to reiterate 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,” he said.