Domestic airlines are counting losses over the last minute postponement of Saturday’s presidential and National Assembly elections by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
INEC chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, announced few hours to the commencement of the elections that it would now hold on February 23 due to logistics concerns.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the domestic airlines are Air Peace, Arik Air, Aero Contractors, Azman Air, Max Air, Overland Airways, Dana Air and Medview Airline.
The airlines had already rescheduled their flights due to the elections and were caught unaware by the political development.
A NAN correspondent who monitored the situation at terminals one and two of the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos on Saturday morning observed that the facilities were deserted.
Only a few security personnel, airline officials and passengers were seen within the vicinity of both terminals.
Chris Iwarah, corporate communications manager, Air Peace, told NAN that it was impossible for the airlines to operate due to the short notice of the postponement.
Mr Iwarah said: “There is no way we could have operated because even if we were able to send notices to the passengers and they were ready to travel, we still have to consider our crew.
“Crew members have to be psychological ready. Some might have gone to drink because they are allowed to when they are off duties for at least eight hours before operating any flight.”
He said the postponement was a great loss to the airline industry because about 90 flights were cancelled due to the elections.
“The unfortunate thing is that we have to repeat that next Saturday which is another huge loss but there is nothing we can do because we must continue to uphold our safety and security standards,” Iwarah said.
Another airline official, who pleaded anonymity, told NAN that the time that the election was postponed was too short for any airline to have planned their flight operations.
“No airline will be willing to fly if there are few passengers on ground and since we are using a bigger aircraft. We need a reasonable number of passengers.
“At the moment, it is still uncertain if there will be flight today even though the election has been postponed,” the official said.