Flight delays cost more than just time, airlines’ reputation at stake

Flight delay is almost becoming the new order in the Nigerian aviation industry. Everyone is worried and hurriedly looking for a solution. Apart from the fact that passengers have their aircraft travel rights, the reputation of airlines is at stake, writes, WOLE SHADARE

Widespread phenomenon

With the total number of global air travelers growing tenfold from 1970 to 2019, air traffic systems worldwide have become increasingly complicated and in many situations congested, causing negative consequences to airlines and the traveling public such as increased airline operating cost, loss of passenger welfare, and added fuel consumption and emissions

Flight delays have become widespread in Nigeria with nearly half of all flights delayed for more than three hours and in many cases stretching to between eight and nine hours.

There is always a cloud of uncertainty. Would the aircraft come and airlift them? Were they going to sleep in the airport? What of the insecurity that has pervaded the country, will they be safe? These questions flood the minds of passengers each time they are scheduled to travel.

Aircraft in flight

Economic impact

Flight delays are 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

As a result, air passenger travel decisions can be expected to be influenced by delayed information. In addition, delays affect airline operations, resulting in increased block times on routes and, in general, higher carrier costs and airfares.

Delays are calculated against scheduled block times as well as against more idealized feasible flight times. Based on econometric estimations, welfare impacts of flight delays are calculated.

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

Since welfare effects are estimated to be three times as large as consumer welfare effects, we conclude that from an economic efficiency rationale, airlines should be required to pay for the bulk of flight delay remediation efforts.

Consumers have been known to consider the potential for the 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

Flight delays are not synonymous with the Nigerian aviation industry. All over the world, many have been caught up with this menace. It is fast assuming a very dangerous dimension; one that has never been experienced until about two years ago.

 

 Airlines in flight

NCAA’s lack of data of cost to the sector

The lack of data by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) of 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.

Dent to US economy

In 2019, domestic flight delays put a $38.3 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.

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.

The study found that airlines with high rates of delay also have higher operating costs overall. The $8.3 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 $6 billion.

Travel in disarray

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 on paying for the resource wasted 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 Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA).

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.

 

Aircraft positioning for take-off

National Assembly wades in

Chairmen, Senate and House of Representatives committees on Aviation, Senator Smart Adeyemi and Nnolim Nnaji after inspection of some facilities of the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) and the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) last week said the excuses for flight delay and cancellations were not totally genuine.

The duo who visited with members of their committees said the National Assembly would meet with airlines, NCAA, and others stakeholders to stem what they described as a ‘dangerous’ trend in the country’s aviation industry.

According to Adeyemi, “We are inviting all the airlines, the Director-General of NCAA, service providers and stakeholders. We are going to look at the civil aviation Act with a view to doing something about it urgently”.

Adeyemi took a swipe on virtually all the carriers for hiding under the excuse of ‘bad weather and operational’ reasons to cause hardship and pain to travelers.

He further stated that in the event of a delay, the airlines do not show remorse by providing refreshments to their customers and ameliorating their pain, stating that they would no longer tolerate their insensitivity to passengers.

He reiterated that the committee would visit virtually all the airports in the country with a view to have a firsthand view of the decrepit state of some of the aerodromes and how they can make budgetary allocations to tackle the problem.

Lamentation

Stakeholders have also expressed worry over the ugly situation. Passengers who have gory experiences to share have used uncomplimentary words to describe the actions of many of the carriers, describing them as not only inefficient but lacking all it takes to run efficient businesses.

They spoke on how such delays and sometimes flight cancellations disrupt their economic activities; make them lose appointments, transactions, and crucial events. Above all, it sometimes leaves them stranded. They also said air travel in Nigeria demands that you must have a “deep pocket” while traveling because you may be made to pay for accommodation, buy another flight ticket, or charter a taxi, depending on which situation presents itself at any point in time when flights are cancelled.

Aviation security consultant and a top member of Aviation Safety Round Table (ASRT), Group Captain John Ojikutu (Rtd) took a swipe on the airlines for frequent delays and lack of empathy to travelers who are kept at the airports for so long without refreshments and do not provide accommodation if flights are cancelled in the later hours of the day.

An airline owner who spoke to Aviation Metric under the condition of anonymity attributed the menace to the paucity of equipment by the airline which makes them not to be able to cope because of their route expansion programme without the commensurate number of equipment to service the routes; hence flight delays and cancellations. He equally lamented that inadequate infrastructure at many of the airports coupled with bad weather in many parts of the country has made delays inevitable.

Nigerian airlines

Last line

The demand is affected because passengers do not seem to forget or forgive airline mistakes that result in the delay of their flight; this means the airline’s reputation is impacted.

Wole Shadare