Flight delay notoriety: Any solution in sight?

Flight delays are not synonymous with the Nigerian aviation industry. It is fast assuming a very dangerous dimension here in Nigeria, writes, WOLE SHADARE

Escalating trend

Flight delays and cancellations are continuing to surge in Nigeria. The recent from the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) for the first quarter of 2023 clearly shows that. It is becoming a herculean task to see a flight that is not delayed. Even airlines that pride themselves or use the marketing strategy of On-time departure know that it is a ruse and one that is no longer tenable.

Air travel in Nigeria is beset by frequent delays, and sometimes outright cancellation of flights

Nigerian airlines

Flight delays pose economic, social, and environmental problems that cause inconveniences for both airline companies and passengers.

They not only irritate air passengers and disrupt their schedules but also cause a decrease in efficiency, an increase in capital costs, reallocation of flight crews and aircraft, and additional crew expenses.

Limited choices

Consumers have been known to consider the potential for delay before choosing to make a booking. As a result, on an aggregate basis, an airline’s record of flight delays may have a negative impact on passenger demand

An executive summary report of the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) on international and domestic flight operations from January to March 2023 (Q1 2023)shows that a number of 3, 073 flights operated on international routes while 182, 88 flights operated on domestic routes.

From the statistics on flight operations in Nigeria between January and March 2023, there has been no marked improvement in the number of delays and cancellations.

Part of the report shows that within the period under review, 25 international airlines operated 3, 073 flights with 1, 193 flight delays, 24 cancellations, six air returns, 9, 087 missing baggage, 7, 942 recovered luggage, two overbooking, 25 cases of discourtesy, 495, 076 outbound passengers, 375, 700 total number of inbound passengers, 27 cases of complaints while the NCAA was resolved to resolve eight cases.

For domestic airlines operations within the same period, eleven domestic airlines operated 182, 88 flights, 101, 28 flight delays, 284 cancellations, 28 air returns, 31 delays/missing baggage with all 31 baggage recovered, three overbookings, 42 reported cases of discourtesy recording 1, 391, 560 inbound passengers, 1, 400, 031, 1.400, 031 outbound passengers, 45 cases of complaints and 22 resolved cases.

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Among the international airlines, Africa World has the highest number of international flights operated to the country with 314 flights, 97 delayed flights making up 31% of the total number of flight delays among international airlines to the country.

The airline never canceled flights but had a poor record of 223 missing baggage with all baggage recovered.

Nigerian airlines

Saudi Air has the poorest number of flight delay amounting to 74%, Egypt Air, 68% of its flights are delayed, followed by Cronos 60%, Kenya Airways 57%, Air Peace 55%, Air Code d’Ivoire 54%, BADR Air 54%, RwandAir 51%, British Airways 47%, Ethiopian Airlines 43%, Turkish Airlines, 43%, Royal Air Maroc 32%, ASKY Airlines 37%, Africa World 31%, TAAG Angola 31% in that order.

United States United Airlines has the least flight delays at 3% followed by Lufthansa Airlines, Middle East Airlines at 13%; Virgin Atlantic Airways at 14%, Air France and Delta at 19%, South African Airways at 22%, Qatar Airways at 28%,  making them the most two reliable airlines in terms of airlines that have fewer delays.

On the domestic scene, Overland Airways with 91%, United Nigeria Airlines has 81%, Azman 73%, Dana 72%, Max Air 68%, Aero Contractors 68%, Air Peace 66%, Arik 59%, topped the chart for airlines with worst records of flight delays.

Air Peace’s numbers are also huge. The airline recorded 1602 delayed flights out of 2421 flights operated by the airline in the first quarter of 2023 amounting to 66% of its flights being delayed which is not an enviable record for an airline.

Aero Contractors within that period operated 465 flights with 314 flights delayed; Arik Air operated 804 flights with 473 flights delayed; Azman operated 267 flights and recorded 195 flight delays; Dana Air operated 421 flights had 303 delays; Overland operated 281 flights had 257 delays; Max ax Air had 653 flights recorded 445 delays; Ibom Air had 850 flights and recorded 295 delays which is an average of 35%.

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Investigation shows that flight delays on a route reduce passenger demand and raise airfares, producing significant decreases in both consumer and producer welfare.

The lack of data by the NCAA on the cost of flight delays by the country’s airlines and by extension cost to the various agencies in terms of charges that would have accrued to them if there is a conscious effort to minimize the pain that is fast taking away the joy of air travel is yet to be made available.


Foreign airlines in flight

In recent times, delayed flights have continued to throw travel plans in Nigeria more into disarray, often making passengers dissatisfied with the airlines. Airlines also suffer simply from paying for the resource wasted and caused by delays but have not invested more to improve passenger satisfaction. More often than not, passengers are maltreated and left to their fate with no protection from the aviation regulatory body.

The inaction of the aviation regulatory body for a very long time and the aloofness of the agency to the blatant and incessant infractions by airlines on passengers’ rights may have informed the decision of the National Assembly to cause a meeting of airlines, NCAA, and other stakeholders to stem the dangerous trend.

In 2022, domestic flight delays put a $40.3 billion dent in the U.S. economy, and about half that cost is borne by airline passengers, according to a study led by UC Berkeley researchers.

Economic impact

The comprehensive report, Total Delay Impact Study, analyzed flight delay data to calculate the economic impact on both airlines and passengers, including the cost of lost demand and the collective impact of these costs on the U.S. economy. The report was commissioned by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to clarify key discrepancies in earlier studies.

More than half of the total cost, or $16.7 billion, was borne by passengers, the study found. This number was calculated based on lost passenger time due to flight delays, cancellations, and missed connections, as well as expenses for food and accommodations as a result of being away from home.

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The study found that airlines with high rates of delay also have higher operating costs overall. The $9.3 billion direct costs to airlines included increased expenses for the crew, fuel, and maintenance, among others.

 Inefficiency in air transportation also had indirect effects on the U.S. economy, the report said, decreasing productivity in other business sectors and reducing the 2019 U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) by $7 billion.

Airlines alone not to blame

Nigerian airlines

International airlines take seriously their flight schedules because they align with their integrated schedules in their global network; so they have to arrive at their operational hubs in time to distribute their passengers to farther destinations. Poor airport facilities are a major setback in the on-time operation of airlines, especially in Lagos and Abuja airports. The poor passenger facilitating process makes delays inevitable.

Former Commandant, Murtala Muhammed Airport, Group Captain John Ojikutu ( Rtd) disclosed that there are many factors that give rise to flight delays. He identified ground services, from check-in to security screening, and the capacity of the airports in terms of facilities and personnel.
“There are many factors that contribute to flights delays necessarily more from the ground services providers and much of cancellations from the airlines operators themselves. 

Last line

Not a few believe that virtually all the carriers for hiding under the excuse of ‘bad weather and operational reasons to cause hardship and pain to travelers, especially from their own shortcomings occasioned by the dearth of aircraft, and sudden malfunction of equipment without replacement among others. Some of these delays are self-inflicted while others are caused by airport authority.

Wole Shadare