Aero management on Monday said it was not deliberate on its part to disembark passengers with a ladder at Bauchi airport at the weekend but embarked on the flight operations because the airport manager had assured the airline of serviceable facilities severally before they embarked on the charter.
Russell leefoon, managing director of Aero at a briefing at Murtala Muhammed Airport, said even though it is not the normal procedures to open the door when the the stairs were not on ground, the passengers who he said were all guests at a wedding, including the groom, insisted on using the ladder.
He said they embarked on the flight because of such assurances adding that they were informed that the ladder had broken down after the aircraft touched down.
“A charter was booked and confirmed from Abuja to Bauchi on a Boeing 737 -500 series aircraft. The charter was booked by a group of young people, part of a wedding party, attending this important event in Bauchi.
“On Friday 18th November 2015, confirmed arrangements were made by our Head of Ground Operations, Mr. Peter Omata for the handling of the flight through the airport manager of Bauchi, Mr. Abubakar. He confirmed on many occasions the availability of the airstairs and cost.
“Prior to leaving Abuja, the Flight dispatcher contacted the Airport Manager to advise that the aircraft was taxing out and he confirmed that they were ready to receive the flight”, he said.
He said at 10:42, the aircraft touched down on Runway 35 at the Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa International Airport, the controller also advised the crew that due to the absence of marshallers and no ramp officials of any sort that parking would be at their own discretion.
“After parking, the Captain reports that they waited for up to 10 minutes for the stairs to be brought to the aircraft but no assistance or stairs came to the aircraft. The Captain reported that he informed the passengers of the situation as they were beginning to get agitated.
“At 10:57 the crew called the controller to enquire as to why there was no one to position the stairs to the aircraft and he was told then that the stairs has just broken down and that the Fire services are making provisions to sort it out”, added.
He explained that after waiting for another five to seven minutes, the passengers became furious as they were now getting very late for the wedding ceremony. The Captain went to the cabin and explained to them that he may have to take them back to Abuja as they cannot disembark due lack of stairs.
“The group insisted that he cannot keep them on board the aircraft and he considered that their anger was becoming potentially threatening for the crew to take them back to Abuja. The alternative which the Fire services provided was a ladder which the passengers took as an option and on their own free will decided to use the ladder to disembark against the wishes of the Captain and crew. The Captain allowed this procedure in order to reduce what he thought was a volatile situation”, he added.
He added that however, there was only one air stairs in the whole of Bauchi (a so called international airport) and the air stairs was not even serviceable. I think this is more of NAMA, FAAN, NCAA and all the responsible bodies for aviation in Nigeria’s fault”, he added.
Meanwhile, the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) spokesman, Yakubu Dati said they have nothing to do with the provision of such facility at that airport.
He said, “the only thing we provide at Bauchi airport is security, marshallers and fire cover”, adding that Bauchi government operates others.
Also, Aero has said that in the last 24 hours; ‘an investigation into the event has been called, the results of which could lead to changes in our operational procedures”.