WEALTHY Nigerian air travellers are now taking the bizarre precaution of flying between Abuja and Lagos via London in a bid to avoid becoming victims of the incessant spate of aviation accidents in the country.
Over recent years, Nigeria has had more than its fair share of accidents, with the latest crash happening earlier this month, when a private jet carrying the remains of former Ondo State governor Segun Agagu burst into flames in Lagos shortly after take-off. Over 20 people on board died in the accident after the Associated Airlines plane suffered engine failure shortly after take-off and crash-landed.
This comes on top of a major accident last year when a Dana Air plane crashed in Lagos killing 153 people. With safety concerns now mounting in Nigeria’s rapidly-expanding domestic airline industry, wealthy travellers are getting round the problem by travelling with foreign airlines flying from Lagos to London and then making a return trip from London to Abuja.
One of the biggest problems in Nigeria’s aviation industry is the age of the aircrafts as many of them should long have been taken out of commission and were only sold to local airlines because they were not wanted anywhere else. Most of the airlines operating in the domestic Nigerian industry, buy such planes at knock-down prices, with Arik Air, the largest operator, being the sole exception.
Since the Associated Airlines crash, wealthy businessmen in the country are increasing opting to fly 3,000 miles via London when travelling between Lagos and Abuja. Foreign airlines like Virgin, British Airways, KLM, Lufthansa and Air France all fly to Europe and their planes are new and meet international safety standards.
With Arik being the only domestic airline that regularly updates it fleet with new aircraft, travellers between Abuja and Lagos either have to risk an accident or fork out a lot of cash for the lengthy London detour. Although the Lagos-London-Abuja marathon is still a rarity, it may become more popular is safety continues to be an issue.
Following the spate of accidents in Nigeria, the International Air Transportation Association and the International Civil Aviation Organisation both have pledged support to local airlines to help them improve their safety records. Until that happens and confidence in local air travel retur