EMIRATES Airlines has suspended all flights to the Murtala Mohammed International Airport in Lagos until further notice saying it will only resume operations there when the facility’s damaged instrument landing system (ILS) is fixed.
Since Monday, Emirates has been redirecting its Lagos flights to Accra in Ghana and Dakar in Senegal due to the current Harmattan haze, which lowers visibility. According to the airline, the ILS in Lagos needs to be fixed as it is a navigational aid that guides aircraft to land, especially during low visibility.
As a result of the poor visibility in Lagos, Emirates said its aircraft cannot land there, so has engaged the services of Arik Air, to transport passengers from Accra and Dakar to Nigeria. However, reports indicate that over 1500 Nigerians are standard in Accra, as there were no adequate arrangements to airlift them to Lagos.
Some of these passengers are staying in hotels paid for by airlines, while others were left to fend for themselves. Apart from Emirates, British Airways has also cancelled its flight to Lagos due to operational constraints.
Delta Airlines was also reported to have recently taken its Lagos passengers back to the US when its flight could not land in Lagos. However, the US based carrier is said to have diverted some of its previous flights to Accra and Dakar respectively.
Dusty winds that blow down from the Sahara Desert, the Harmattan haze reduces visibility below 800 meters, so airlines needed ILS to land. At the Lagos airport, Category 3 ILS, which enables aircraft to land at zero visibility was installed last year but the calibration was not completed so it could not be put to use.
Many international carriers including British Airways, Lufthansa, Air France, KLM, Delta Air Line have all diverted flights from Lagos lately and may consider suspending for the time being. Apparently, the airlines and aviation agencies have lost huge amounts of revenues due to delays, flight cancellation and diversions of late.
Aviation minister Senator Hadi Sirika, has apologised to the airlines and passengers over the bad weather and malfunctioning ILS, adding that the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency is working tirelessly to remedy the situation. Meanwhile, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), which earlier issued a circular to pilots and airlines over the weather, has announced that the adverse conditions may last until March.
It stated that the prevailing inclement weather was a global experience at the moment, which had warranted the cancellation of in-bound international flights, so the problem was not peculiar to Nigeria. NCAA spokesman, Sam Adurogboye, said that in severe conditions, the dust haze can blot out runways, markers and airfield lightings over wide areas, making visual navigation extremely difficult or impossible.