Minister of Aviation, Festus Keyamo, has faulted the claim by United Nigeria Airline (UNA), that its flight which took off from Lagos for Abuja on Sunday evening was diverted to Asaba because of inclement weather conditions enroute Abuja.

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Spokesman of UNA, Achilleus-Chudl Uchegbu, had issued a statement shortly after the incident on Sunday stating that “a United Nigeria Airline flight, NUA 0504, operating from the MM2 in Lagos enroute to Abuja, on Sunday, November 26, 2023, was temporarily diverted to Asaba international airport due to poor destination weather.

“At all material time, the pilot of the aircraft was aware of the temporary diversion and was properly briefed.

“However, a wrong announcement was made by the cabin crew upon landing safely in Asaba creating confusion among the passengers.”

Nonetheless, in a meeting with Heads of Aviation agencies yesterday, Keyamo said “The incident that happened yesterday where a plane bound for Abuja ended up in Asaba, we have listened to the transcript produced by NAMA from the tower to the pilot and it was clear that when the pilot was taking off from Lagos he was headed to Asaba not Abuja.

“There was no weather problem in Abuja yesterday, it was a question of a wet lease plane where the pilot and crew were all foreigners not Nigerians so they were not familiar with the Nigeria terrain.

“From the transcript we heard the tower kept asking the pilot, confirm again that you are going to Abuja not Asaba, the Pilot replied no, I am going to Asaba before they took off, the tower asked again and it was the same response. It was purely an in-house administrative issue. We have asked them to interview the dispatcher who dispatched that plane and where sanctions should apply we should apply sanctions.

“We have agreed that henceforth all wetleases coming into Nigeria, you must have a Nigeria pilot seated on the jump seat with the foreign pilot.

“I also directed the NCAA to within the next 72 hours summon all pilots and crew operating wet leases in Nigeria for further briefing.

“The NCAA must sanction the airline regulators who are negligent and made an error of judgment withdrawing their licenses and blacklisting them. We have also decided that the cabin crew of the wet leases must be Nigerians to ease interaction between the passengers and cabin crews.”

On canceled flights, Keyamo also ordered DG NCAA to ensure a catalogue of canceled flights on a weekly basis.

He said: “We are not deaf to the cries of Nigerians about delays and canceled flights. The law is there and we are looking at how to enforce those laws for compensation of Nigerians who bear the brunt of cancellation of flights.

“The process of grounding the airline or taking the airlines to court will create more problem
So if the reason for the delay and cancellation of flight is their fault they must pay compensation. And what I am suggesting is that if they don’t get cash back they must get some rebate when they buy next ticket.”