The Nigerian local airline involved in a crash last year June killing at least 163 people has resumed domestic flights with few passengers embracing a cut-price air fare with caution.
So far, officials acknowledge they still don’t know what brought the aircraft down and that the families of the dead still haven’t received promised compensation and insurance settlements.
The two engines of Dana Air plane, McDonnell Douglas-83, owned by an Indian Company had failed mid-air last June leading to a massive loss of lives. The MD-83 reportedly was originally owned by Seattle-based Alaska Airlines.
After the accident which touched the soul of the nation last June, aviation authorities suspended the operating licence of the airline but restored it in September following a rigorous audit.
Controversy had trailed the return of the airliner with some lawmakers speaking against its resumption of operations. While some newspaper columnists saw the attack on the airline as racist against a company as it was owned by Indians.
Dana Air was considered to be one of the most efficient in the country before the crash.
Government authorities however, cleared Dana Air to resume flight with the same type of planes involved in the crash, despite public outrage over the disaster.
Thursday’s resumption its flight operations after a seven months seizure following the crash received a low response as potential customers are still apprehensive of the Airlines security and safety.
As the company commenced its official flight with drastic reduction of fare, only few passengers were seen responding to the company’s price cavorting.
Smiling staffers stood agitated on Thursday at empty check-in and ticket counters at the domestic wing of Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos. Only a few passengers, many of whom were nervous paid for seats on its 4:20 p.m. flight to Nigeria’s capital, Abuja.
The private airline however spin-up a planned strategy to impress customers by scheduling a free flight of top celebrities, government officials and journalists from Lagos to the capital city Abuja in a return flight to convince that the carrier was again open for business with enhanced safety. The Airline embarked on the Friday ceremonious flight, which received a huge ovation.
A source at the Murtala Mohammed Airport spoke said: “The plane took off by 9.45 am from Lagos, went to Abuja and later returned.
The spokesman for the airline Tony Usidamen said he boarded the aircraft with some passengers for the first commercial flight from Lagos to Abuja at about 10am and a roaring ovation welcomed the flight as it landed in Abuja at 11.05am with celebrities, journalists and politicians amongst its passengers.
“The passengers gave a loud cheer and applause as the flight landed Abuja safely on Friday”, a source said.
Tony Usidamen, said the strategy was necessary to tell the world that Dana was once again ready for business.
The carrier was offering tickets as cheap as 14,400 naira ($90) one-way to Abuja , about half the price of its competitors, as a means of luring back passengers.
However, Usidamen said the carrier planned a limited flight schedule for the coming weeks and acknowledged it would be a while before its flights were full again.
“It’s going to take time to publicize the resumption of flights and to regain the public’s confidence,” the spokesman told The Associated Press.
At least 163 died on June 3 last year when one of the company fleet of Aircrafts, a MD-83 twin-engine jet crashed in a crowded neighborhood on the outskirts of Lagos, killing all 153 people onboard and at least 10 on the ground.
As investigation continues on the crash, officials acknowledge they still don’t know what brought the aircraft down just in the middle of a bright afternoon.
Paradoxically, Government authorities cleared Dana Air to again fly the same type of planes which involved in the crash even though public outrage had lambasted the government, for being insensitive to public outcry in the face of agony suffered by many families.
On June 3, the Dana Air MD-83 twin-engine jet crashed in a crowded neighborhood on the outskirts of Lagos, killing all 153 people onboard and at least 10 on the ground, authorities have said. The pilots told air traffic controllers that the plane lost power to both engines just before the crash. The reason for the power loss remains unclear. Crash investigators in Nigeria have said the flight data recorder on the plane melted in the ensuing fire.
Dana will fly its remaining stock of five MD-83s, airplanes built by McDonnell Douglas, which was later bought by Boeing Co. The aircraft series is a mainstay of airlines around the world, with a large number still flown by American Airlines, owned by AMR Corp. Joe Obi, a spokesman for Nigeria’s Aviation Minister Stella Oduah, pointed to that when asked if authorities had any concerns about Dana continuing to fly that model.
“Until we are sure what caused the crash, we can’t make a decision on the MD-83,” Obi told the AP.