The Turkish Airlines has promised to upgrade its Nigerian fleet to larger carriers following a sanction by the Nigerian government, aviation authorities said on Saturday.
Sam Adurogboye, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority spokesperson, said in a statement that the airline’s decision came following a meeting between its executives and the Acting Director-General of the agency, Abdullahi Sidi.
“At the end of the meeting, the airline’s executives pledged to commence immediately freight of all leftover passengers’ baggage back in Turkey,” the statement said.
“According to them, this will be achieved by instantly upgrading the Boeing 737 – 800 being used and found inadequate to a larger Airbus A 330 and Boeing 737 – 900,” he said.
He also said the clearance would be carried out from December 13 to 17 December, adding that it expects strict compliance with the programme.
‘Poor treatment of Nigerians’
The move by the airline came after the government announced it was suspending its operations in Nigeria over perceived poor treatment of passengers.
On Saturday, Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, said that no foreign airline operator would henceforth be allowed to treat Nigerian travellers with disdain.
Mr Sirika spoke in a statement signed by James Odaudu, the Director of Public Affairs in the ministry.
The minister further warned other airline operators to take a cue from the recent Turkish Airlines’ experience.
“Following the threat by the nation’s aviation regulators to ban its operations in Nigeria, Turkish Airlines last night flew into Abuja with a bigger aircraft A330 as against the usual smaller B737.
“Officials of the airline, alarmed by the prospect of losing their Nigerian market, had rushed into a meeting with the Nigerian authorities to pledge total commitment,“ he said.
The minister in his statement noted that the airline had tried to comply with the conditions given to it in order to continue its operations in Nigeria,
According to him, Turkish airlines has been notorious for the shabby treatment of Nigerian travellers over time, especially when they have to arrive their destinations without their checked-in luggage.
In 2015, the government suspended several top airport officials after some Turkish Airline passengers protested on the tarmac, having arrived Nigeria without their luggage.
In 2017, the airline was forced to cancel a Lagos-Istanbul flight after passengers refused to travel due to a faulty air-conditioning system in the aircraft.
A few months later, an Indian national accused the airline of mistreatment because his destination was Nigeria.
Mr Sirika said such behaviours by the airline had always given rise to security issues at the airports with protests by affected passengers.
The minister noted that the airline had now shown commitment to improve its treatment of Nigerian travellers by operating into the nation’s capital with a bigger and more comfortable aircraft.
He said the situation did not need to arise in the first place with the airline waiting for the strong-arm handling before doing the right thing.
Mr Sirika promised Nigerians better flying experiences as the nation’s aviation industry was set to undergo major developments in the coming years with the implementation of the stakeholder-developed roadmap.