Hundreds of intending domestic air passengers heading for different various destinations to celebrate the Easter were on Thursday stranded at the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos and other airports across the country following massive flight delays by airlines.
Passengers travelling to Enugu from Lagos as well as other South-East and South-South cities had their flights delayed by three to five hours, airport officials said.
Investigations by our correspondent revealed that the delay was caused by a major technical hitch to the passenger checking system of a major domestic operator at the General Aviation Terminal of the Lagos airport during the early hours of the day.
The development, it was gathered, affected several of the airline’s scheduled flights throughout the day as the remaining flights were delayed by three hours on the average as a result.
A top official of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria at the GAT said, “The airline’s server was bad in the morning. This affected the passenger checking-in system. The server did not pick up until three hours later. In fact, the airline officials were already issuing boarding passes through the manual method before the server picked up three hours later.
“The delay in the morning affected every other flight throughout the day. Lagos to Enugu, Enugu to Abuja and other flights were affected by the delay.”
Further findings revealed that other intending passengers who came to buy tickets for the day were forced to postpone their flights till the next day.
The Easter holidays would be marred by scarcity of flights as a result of the suspension of flight operations by Aerocontractors Airlines because of an industrial action by its workers.
The flight scarcity on Thursday led to a situation whereby passengers were struggling to get seats aboard the few available flights.
Airport touts, in connivance with airline officials, were having a field day as a result of the development, raising fares astronomically for desperate travellers, who were only interested in getting to their destinations.
It was gathered that the ticket for a one-hour flight was sold for N40,000 at the GAT instead of the average price of between N28,000 and N30,000.
The situation was the same at some other airports where a one-hour flight to places like Abuja and Port Harcourt was selling for over N40,000.
A visit to the GAT of the Lagos airport showed that one of the leading airlines actually capitalised on the increasing demand to hike its fares.
The suspension of operations by Aerocontractors, the second largest domestic airline by passenger traffic, due to internal labour crises, had left the airline grounded for almost two weeks.
The airline’s management is battling its almost 1,300 employees who are protesting against alleged poor condition of service among other issues.
The development has had an adverse effect on domestic air travel, which is dominated by Arik Air and Aero in terms of large route network.
Passengers have been facing hard times getting seats on the South-South and South-East routes operated by only Aero and Arik. Destinations on these routes are Benin, Calabar, Uyo, Owerri and Enugu.
Other domestic carriers such as Dana Air, IRS Airlines, Medview Airlines and Chanchagi Airlines operate from Lagos to Abuja and a few cities in the North.