Hundreds stranded by Airbus failure

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The Independent Online
Hundreds of passengers booked on Nigeria Airways flights have been stranded in London and Lagos because of a technical fault. The Airbus A310 that normally operates United Kingdom-Nigeria services was ready for take-off on 5 January, with 226 pass engerson board, when an engine problem was discovered. The aircraft is still grounded at Heathrow, and a further five flights have been cancelled.

Nigeria Airways leased a replacement aircraft, a Boeing 747, which was due to arrive in London from Lagos last Thursday. It was rescheduled to land at 4.30pm yesterday; subsequently delayed to 8.30pm, then postponed indefinitely. Last night it was not clear whether the flight had taken off from Lagos.

Earlier, the airline released a statement saying: "Everything is being done to ensure that all passengers booked on the London-Lagos route are airlifted to their destinations." But even if the normal service of five flights a week is resumed immediately using a high-capacity 747, it is likely to take some time to clear the backlog.

Two Britons, Andrew Grillet and his son Peter, have been waiting to leave Lagos since last Sunday. Yesterday Mr Grillet's mother, Janet Grillet, of Greenwich, south-east London, said she had been warned it could be another week before they get out. "It'simpossible to find out from the airline what's going on," she said.

Some passengers holding full-fare tickets have been able to switch to other airlines, but a spokesman for British Airways said bookings on its daily Gatwick-Lagos service were already heavy, with little or no space available. Passengers holding discounted tickets have had no option but to wait for transportation on Nigeria Airways or buy a new ticket on another carrier.

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