ABOUT 190 passengers on an Air Nigeria flight to Lagos were forced to cough up £40 each yesterday after the troubled airline told them at the last minute that it had no money to purchase aviation fuel.
Passengers on the flight LOS-VK 0292/08 from Gatwick Airport were surprised when after waiting for several hours were told that if they did not provide the cash, the plane would not leave. Air Nigeria has been in trouble for the last few months and its chairman revealed earlier this month, that it shall be shutting down its operations today on September 10, for a year.
However, yesterday, the drama took an unbelievable twist when was expected to be the carrier’s last flight out of London was delayed for several hours. After the passengers came up with the £40 each, the flight, which was scheduled to leave Gatwick at 9.50am, eventually did so at 5pm, arriving in Lagos at 12.30am.
The passengers’ ordeal was not over, however, as arriving at Murtala Mohammed International Airport in Lagos, they discovered their baggage had not arrived with them. They were left stranded for several hours before an official of the airline told them to return the following day for their luggage.
Apparently, Swissport, the airline’s bag handling service, refused to provide ground-handling operations because Air Nigeria had not met its financial obligations to them. John Nnorom, a former chief financial officer of the airline, said that of the 11 aircraft in Air Nigeria’s fleet, only one is serviceable.
Last week, Jimoh Ibrahim, Air Nigeria’s embattled owner has said that his workers were disloyal to the company but the workers pointed out that Mr Ibrahim was a bad manager who diverted funds given to the airline by the Nigerian government and is negligent with aircraft maintenance. These workers, who recently organised a protest to air their grievances, have not received any salaries since April.