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Nigerian airlines fail to take flight

Thousands of passengers with few options other than flying are left stranded as three domestic airlines fail at once.
Last modified: 18 Mar 2013 20:25

For the umpteenth time in the past year, thousands of passengers in Nigeria's airports have been left stranded.

But this time, it’s not just one airline. Three have run into trouble at the same time.

Dana Air grounded flights after the government ordered the airline to stop flying.

Passengers were left stranded in several airports when Arik Air planes they had booked to travel on didn’t show up.

And when staff at Aero Contractors went on strike because of poor pay and conditions,  its services also stopped.

Damaging image

Arik is Nigeria's biggest domestic airline, normally transporting thousands of people around 22 Nigeria airports daily.

Aero Contractors is the second biggest airline. 

Dana Air, an airline that was once very popular, was just getting its customers back after a terrible air accident in June.

You can imagine the chaos when three major airlines have problems at the same time. Nobody knows the exact reasons why these airlines are failing passengers.

Some analysts say it is because the aviation authorities are concerned about safety. Others blame the airlines' financial problems for not being able to provide the services scheduled.

Whatever the reasons are behind the current meltdown, it is damaging the image and confidence that Nigerian and foreign travellers have in domestic airlines, and as a result in the country's wider economy.

Few alternatives

Ironically, despite the problem of grounded and cancelled flights, the industry continues to grow.

This is because people in Nigeria simply have no other ways to get between major cities. Infrastructure like good roads and railways, are poor, so passengers have little choice but to wait and hope the airlines function.

Aviation bosses are also accused of not imposing enough penalties on airlines that fail to fly.

That's why the problem seems to keep returning.

Even though hundreds of millions of dollars are being spent on revamping airports, some passengers feel the industry's leaders are not paying enough attention to ensuring airlines play by the rules.

Until that happens, this problem of grounded and abandoned flights may happen again.

Follow Al Jazeera's Yvonne Ndege on Twitter at @YvonneNdege