Aviation Crisis thickens As Airline Passengers Shun Air flight for road transport

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lagos-airport-terminalFewer passengers are now travelling by air, despite being the safest and fastest means of transportation.

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This is mostly as a result of the rising cases of air accidents, disappointments, near crashes and allegation of corruption rocking the sector in the past six weeks.

For instance, the Minister of Aviation, Ms. Stella Oduah, has been embattled in the last few weeks, following the controversy surrounding the alleged purchase of two armoured vehicles worth N255m for her by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority.

Three domestic airlines whose operations were halted in October for being involved in either an accident or incident have not returned to business.

One of them is the Associated Airlines, whose plane crashed in Lagos on October 3, killing 15 out of the 20 people on board.

Also, an aircraft belonging to IRS Airlines had an emergency landing 10 days later, due to hydraulic failure.

On October 7, 2013, the Federal Government again suspended the operations of Dana Airlines, citing reasons of flight hiccups and the need for an audit.

A visit by our correspondent to the Murtala Mohammed Airport 2 and the General Aviation Terminal, both in Lagos, on Friday, confirmed that the usual hustle and bustle had reduced as fewer people were seen around the cubicles of about three remaining airlines making bookings for flight tickets.

Many of the officials were seen exchanging jokes and pleasantries with one another as they had fewer passengers to attend to.

A passenger, Mr. George Ukah, told our correspondent that he was supposed to fly with about six of his colleagues for a seminar in Abuja, adding that five of them had to change their minds about going by air at the last minute.

He said, “As I speak with you, our company is sponsoring seven of us for a seminar in Abuja, but I was surprised that at the last minute, six of them decided that they would use the road option.

“They said they were no longer comfortable going by air for now due to all the issues in the sector. It was really surprising to me, and now, it is just two of us that are going by air.”

Another passenger, Ms. Ngozi Eze, said that she came to the airport to see if she could get a refund from one of the airlines for her booking, which she did a few weeks back, adding that she felt the road option would be better for now.

“I booked for this flight to Port-Harcourt about a fortnight ago, for a trip early next week, but now, I have decided that I will go by road. Some of my friends that have been plying the Lagos – Port-Harcourt route said the roads are better, and the buses are in good shape, so I am here to see if I can get a refund, because of all the problems that the sector has been experiencing and you know it is even cheaper to go by road; I want to try it and see,” she said.

An official of a major carrier in Lagos told our correspondent that the airline had been recording lower patronage in the last few weeks, and had resorted to rescheduling its flights in order not to run at a total loss.

She said, “Lately, activities have not been going on as usual; we have noticed a general reduction in patronage. I think some passengers are a bit skeptical about air travel for the time being.

“Perhaps, this is as a result of the crash and other incidents that have been recorded in the Nigerian airspace in the last few weeks. I think more people are considering the road option.”

A visit to the major motor parks in Maza-maza, Lagos, showed an unusual crowd of passengers waiting to travel to various parts of the country.

A senior official of the ABC Transport Plc, who simply gave his name as Tunde, confirmed to our correspondent that there was indeed an increase in the number of passengers travelling by the luxury buses in the past two months.

He said, “It is true, we have witnessed an increased patronage in the last six weeks, and lately, we have more buses plying the routes because of the increase in the number of passengers.

“For instance, we used to have about seven buses leaving on a daily basis for the Lagos-Abuja route, but lately, we have about 12 to 14 buses. The same thing applies to our Lagos-Enugu and Lagos-Calabar routes.”

He added, however, that the increase in number of commuters had not resulted in any significant increase in the fares. “No, the fares have not gone up that much yet, remember that December is just around and that is the period when we would have even higher number of travellers, so the fares would go up then.”

At the New Garage, Ojota, the story is similar.

An official who works with Kogi Line, Mr. Dare Olatunji, said that major transporters had acquired new vehicles to meet with the increasing demand of passengers.

He said, “Obviously, a lot of people we now see at the park are people who, you would have found at the airport, but for some reasons, they have chosen to use the road. A lot of them come with peculiar demands, and some do not mind paying for two or three seats for their convenience.

“Some of them even charter a whole 14-seater bus, for only about seven passengers; you will know that they are in money. I think it is a good business for us, and we know more people will be encouraged to come along, despite the distance of road travel.”

 

 

[Punch]

Babatunde Akinsola
Babatunde Akinsolahttps://naija247news.com
Babatunde Akinsola is aNaija247news' Southwest editor. He's based in Lagos and writes on the Yoruba Nation political issues, news and investigative reports

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