Airline passengers left stranded in London/Lagos

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Airline passengers left stranded in London/Lagos

Postby Richard Akindele » Tue Jun 27, 2006 2:16 am

The Federal Government to stop British Airways to operate the three additional frequencies granted last year has left many of the airline’s passengers, mostly Nigerians in Lagos and London, stranded.

THISDAY gathered at the weekend that as a result of this development and in trying to minimize the impact on its passengers, the airline had to make many of its Nigeria, in and out bound, passengers fly through Accra, Ghana.

The airline yesterday cancelled its out of Lagos to London as well as the Monday flight into London and is hoping that a decision on next Thursday’s flight out of Lagos should be reached by the evening of today.

The move to fly passengers through Accra, Ghana was said to be necessitated by the inability of British Airways (BA) to get most of the stranded passengers on its Spanish Oneworld Partner, Iberia Airline, which flies smaller aircrafts into Lagos from Madrid.

Lagos bound passengers taken on BA flight from London to Accra were said to be put on other airlines including Virgin Nigeria and Aero Contractors flights from Accra into Lagos and vice versa.

According to information, passengers who had been booked on the cancelled flights several months ago got to London Heathrow and Murtala Mohammed Airports only to be told that their flights had been cancelled.
For Lagos bound passengers in London, THISDAY gathered that BA had to rebook some while those who refused or could not be rebooked on another BA flight had their tickets endorsed on other airlines outside BA’s Oneworld Partners.
An aviation analyst who carpeted the Federal Government’s ban on the airline told THISDAY yesterday that though the government of any country must control airlines’ frequencies, “it is necessary that it is done within a responsible framework.�

A BA aircraft was Thursday grounded by the Federal Government following a directive that the airline should stop operating three additional frequencies granted it last year.
The aircraft had departed Heathrow Airport, London Wednesday night and arrived the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos at about 5.30am and positioned for return to London at 8am.

However, the aircraft was denied take off by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), acting under instructions from the Federal Government which had earlier directed the airline to stop the three additional frequencies granted it last year.

Convinced that government was not ready to shift ground on the issue, officials of the airline were reported to have requested for clearance to fly the aircraft back to London without passengers, a request that was said to have been granted.
NCAA, according to information, had indeed instructed the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) to effect the Federal Government's directive on the airline.
Spokesman of the airline, Simon Tumba, in a statement made available to THISDAY Thursday also confirmed government's position on the additional frequency.

"Last year the Nigerian government gave British Airways permission to fly three extra services a week taking the total from one a day to ten a week. The Nigerian government wrote to us in March advising that it wished to discuss whether we should continue with the three additional Lagos flights.
"There have been ongoing discussions with the government since that time over the potential withdrawal of these services.
"Until now, we have had no clarity over whether we should continue to operate or not. As we already had passengers booked on the flights we have continued to operate them.
"Yesterday (Wednesday) we received a letter from the government advising us not to operate the flight. However, the flight had already departed London. The flight continued and landed in Lagos. All passengers on the arriving flight were allowed to disembark. The government withheld permission for the flight to depart for London this morning (Thursday)", the airline said.

It noted that its passengers were accommodated in the lounge, "whilst we rebooked them on other services to London", adding:
"We regret any inconvenience this may have caused our customers. Our aircraft has now been given permission to depart for Heathrow. It will position back without passengers."
It is recalled that the issue of granting additional frequencies and multiple entry points to foreign carriers, particularly those from Europe have been a subject of controversy, with domestic airlines and other stakeholders flawing it as a serious disservice to the nation.

Since the assumption of office, Aviation Minister, Dr. Babalola Borishade who is pursuing the Federal Government's reform agenda in the aviation industry, has promised to review the policies on additional frequencies and multiple entry points which are incongruent with Bilateral Air Services Agreements (BASAs) between Nigeria and other countries.

Richard Akindele
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