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Nearly 60 percent of flights delayed in 3 months

Airlines have blamed the delays on a shortage of aviation fuel because of a shortage of foreign currency to pay suppliers.

Airlines have blamed the delays on a shortage of aviation fuel because of a shortage of foreign currency to pay suppliers

Nearly 60 percent of domestic flights were delayed in Nigeria in just three months to the end of September, local media reported on Monday, citing statistics from the country's aviation regulator.

The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) recorded 7,722 delays of the 13,097 scheduled flights operated by eight airlines in the third quarter; 253 services were cancelled in the same period.

Arik Air, Nigeria's biggest airline, was responsible for the bulk of delayed and cancelled flights, followed by Air Peace.

Nigeria slipped into recession in August after being hit by months of dwindling revenue caused by the fall in global oil prices.

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Gross domestic product is expected to shrink in 2016 by 1.6 per cent, the African Development Bank said in a recent statement.

Nigeria's aviation sector in particular has taken a beating. Some international airlines have halted flights altogether and at least one domestic carrier, Aero Contractors, suspended operations indefinitely.

International carriers United Airlines and Iberia have stopped flights to Nigeria because of difficulties getting revenue out of the country.

The result has made travelling even more of a headache in Nigeria, which was already notorious for shoddy airports and bribe-hungry staff.

Last year, a travel website rated the West African country's Port Harcourt International Airport the worst in the world, describing it as "the dirtiest and most corrupt airport in Africa."

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John Ojikutu, the head of an aviation security consultancy in Lagos, said these delays could have been avoided with better industry regulation.

"Quite a lot of them are indebted to the service providers and they are also indebted to the fuel marketers, that's why they keep on having delays," Ojikutu told AFP.

"When the price of fuel went up, a lot of the businesses had been owing for fuel quite some time, and the marketers are not ready to continue selling for them on credit," Ojikutu said.

"It's poor financial mismanagement."

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