Harmattan Haze Forces Airlines To Divert, Delay Flights From Lagos

THE Harmattan haze yesterday wrecked havoc to flight operations in the country, resulting in some major airlines diverting their flights while some domestic airlines had their early morning flights delayed.

The bad visibility resulted in Virgin Atlantic Airways and Arik Air diverting their international flights to Accra, Ghana and Port Harcourt respectively.

For instance, Virgin Atlantic Airways, which regularly arrive the Murtala Mohammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos from Heathrow London in the early hours of the morning diverted its inbound flight to neighbouring African country, Ghana while Arik Air diverted its London-Lagos flight to Port Harcourt because of bad weather.

At the local scene, domestic carriers like Dana Air, Med-View, Aero and Chanchangi Airline had their early morning flights out of Lagos delayed for some few hours to allow the weather to improve before operating their flights.

The spokesperson for Virgin Atlantic, Kudirat Scot-Igbene confirmed the diversion of the airline’s London flight to Accra, Ghana, but the passengers were later airlifted to Lagos when the weather improved.

Also, Arik spokesman, Mr. Banji Ola confirmed that the bad weather in Lagos affected its London and Dakar flights. He explained that with the bad weather, no flight could land or take over in Lagos for over three hours in the morning.

He said: “It is true we diverted our London and Dakar flights to Port Harcourt today (yesterday). The weather could not allow aircraft to land or take off in Lagos and for safety reasons, we flew to Port Harcourt and when the weather normalised, we flew back to Lagos.”

Dana Air’s spokesman, Mr. Tony Usidamen, said that its early morning flight out of Abuja was affected by the poor visibility experienced in Lagos yesterday morning.

Usidamen noted that its 7am flight to Lagos was delayed for over two hours because of hazy weather.

He, however, emphasised that flight operations had since resumed without any hitches.

An Air Traffic Controller with the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) who did not want to be named confirmed that visibility in Lagos during the early hours of yesterday’s morning was less down 600 metres and that it would have been risky for any pilot to land an aircraft with that.

“According to regulation, the weather minima required for aircrafts to land in Lagos is 1200 meters visibility. No airline would want to take chances and the NCAA has warned pilots and airlines to obey the weather instructions in the interest of safety,” the source said.