New Year: Airlines record low patronage

Domestic airline operators experienced low patronage on Wednesday as passengers deserted the Lagos airport, opting instead to celebrate the New Year in their current stations.

Our correspondent, who was at the domestic wing of the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos, observed that there were very few people at the departure hall.

To confirm the low-key nature of activities at the airport, most of the touts, who usually loiter around the airport environment were absent on Wednesday.

Some passengers, who spoke to our correspondent, lamented that their flights were delayed because of the low turnout of travellers.

A passenger, Mr. Ben Nimika, said that his Abuja-bound flight was supposed to take off by 2pm but as of 3.30pm, he had yet to be checked in.

He said, “I think the problem is that very few people are booked to fly and the airlines do not want to fly with many empty seats, so they are deliberately delaying flights at both ends to ensure that they get more passengers.

“I even learnt when I got here that two flights, which were to leave earlier in the day, were merged into one. I just hope that is not what they are trying to do with this one.”

An Ilorin-bound passenger, Mr. Taofeek Bello, complained that he had waited for over two hours as his flight was being shifted with repeated postponements.

“I am still waiting and it is important I travel because I have to get to Abuja early on Thursday morning for an appointment,” he said.

An official of Aero Contractors, who spoke to our correspondent on condition of anonymity, said it was not a strange development for the airport to be scanty since most passengers had travelled few days to the New Year, while their return journeys would be some days after.

The official said, “I am sure that if you come here on Thursday morning (today), you may not be able to get seats on some flights, same thing with Friday. Flights are available but I guess people are enjoying the New Year holiday, hoping to fly the next day.

“Let me stress that no passenger will be disappointed with outright cancellation, there may be slight delays due to low patronage; it is not unusual.”

The spokesperson, Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, Mr. Yakubu Dati, told our correspondent that the airlines were expected to operate on normal schedule in holiday period.

It is expected that activities will peak today (Thursday) as work resumes nationwide.

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