On the diversion of Lagos-bound flight to Malabo by Lufthansa

By Shola Adekola | Lagos


THE news of how a Lagos-bound Lufthansa aircraft that took off from Frankfurt with over 200 Nigerians and few other nationals diverted to Malabo in Equatorial Guinea, thereby delaying the Nigerian passengers for three hours behind schedule before finally flying them to Lagos filtered into the country’s aviation sector early in the week.

According to information gathered, the pilot of the flight had premised his decision on the excuse that he couldn’t land at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport because the airport was closed.

He eventually took them to Malabo airport where he landed and kept them on ground for three hours under the guise that he was waiting for the Lagos airport to be reopened.

Throughout the period the Nigerian passengers were kept on ground, their family members, who had expected the flight to have arrived Lagos at 5.45pm, started getting agitated over the strange delay in the arrival of the aircraft. The flight finally arrived at 2am.

The airport closure reason given by the pilot has however been found to be untrue as information from the Nigerian aviation authorities noted that at no time was the Lagos airport closed down on the day in question.

The picture of airport closure painted by the pilot for diverting the 200 passengers to Malabo did not add up in view of the vague circular issued by the airline from far away Frankfurt to the passengers billed to travel on the return flight of the aircraft to Germany who were caught up in the flight diversion drama in Lagos.

The circular issued by the airline to the Nigerian passengers claimed operational reasons were responsible for the flight diversion and the subsequent delay in the arrival of the aircraft from Malabo to Lagos.

The scenario that played out about the controversial flight LH568 has again exposed the poor treatment constantly meted out to the Nigerian travelling public by foreign carriers despite their being treated better in Nigeria.

For how on earth will an airline give undue preference to less than 20 passengers over 200 passengers without adequate explanation?

While no one is ruling out the fact that unforeseen circumstances could be responsible for flight diversions, what matters is the body language displayed by the pilot or the airline when such scenarios play out.

The threat issued by the pilot of the aircraft to invite the police to come and evacuate the passengers who complained about the ungodly hour of 2am the plane landed in Lagos has again confirmed the hostility of many of the foreign carriers towards Nigerian travellers who coincidentally form the bulk of their traffic in the region.

As at the time of writing this piece, the cause of the flight diversion and delay is still shrouded in secrecy with no statement issued by the Nigerian aviation authorities, particularly the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA).

The latest development has equally brought to the fore the hitherto sluggishness in the way Nigeria’s aviation authorities handle sensitive issues like passengers rights, particularly when it involves foreign carriers who have been going scot free with their misdemeanours.

While no one is jumping into conclusion about what actually happened to the Lufthansa flight, it is however hoped that the NCAA in particular with the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) will investigate the claims by the pilot of the aircraft.

The need to not ignore the flight diversion becomes imperative since the pilot blamed the diversion on airport closure which the authorities in the sector have not been able to deny.

Among the questions calling for answers are if the airport was actually closed on the day in question, why it was only Lufthansa that the purported closure affected and if a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) was issued to alert of any closure to incoming flights.

At the end of the investigations, proactive actions should be taken for the purpose of nipping the excesses of foreign airlines in the bud. They should be forced to treat Nigerians with respect in view of the obvious freedom and huge market they enjoy from Nigeria.



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