The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has indicated interest in taking a strong action against the Turkish Airlines after the Middle East outfit abandoned 22 Nigerian pupils, students and instructors of Glisten International College, Abuja at the Ataturk International Airport in Istanbul earlier in the week.
The students, who were between 11 and 15 years old, and their instructors were forced to sleep in the resting area of the airport with only blankets. They were also compelled to pay $40 each, which amounted to $880, before they could access the resting area of the airport.
The school, which came first in Robot Competition in Nigeria 2016, was scheduled to represent the country among 170 others in Turkey, where it also emerged among the first 80 competitors, edging other countries that had attended the competition since 2007.
A source close to the school informed Saharareporters on Friday that officials of the NCAA had visited the school in the federal capital on Thursday for a “fact-finding mission”.
“The proprietor told the NCAA officials of the hardships the students endured in the Turkish capital, showing photographs taken at the airport when they slept at the terminal,” the source said, adding: “A child of the proprietor was among the abandoned students at the airport.”
The NCAA officials urged the school proprietor to write officially to the agency while promising to sanction the erring airline notorious for poor passenger handling especially in Nigeria as against the status of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).
“It is unfortunate that the airline could treat our pupils like that over there. They missed the flight from the United States, which was even operated by Turkish Airlines because the flight was delayed for over an hour. By the time they arrived at the airport in Turkey, the flight had already departed for Lagos,” the source quoted the proprietor as saying.
“It was bad enough that the Turkish authorities took money from the Nigerian contingent but still failed to treat them with dignity,” the source also quoted an NCAA official saying, even as the official urged the school proprietor to release the maltreatment photographs to media with a view to exposing the Turkish Airlines.
Saharareporters can confirm that the students and their instructors returned to Lagos on Tuesday night after the one-day stay at the Ataturk Airport.
Interestingly, however, the Turkish Airline has denied delaying the Nigerian contingent at the Istanbul airport for the reported period.
“We have never had a record of minors being dumped at Istanbul Airport,” the airline said in a short statement.
“The story is false and we cannot say more than that. We continue to renew our commitment to delivering quality services to our passengers in 299 destinations in 120 countries across the globe,” the statement added.
The students and their instructors departed the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos to Istanbul on April 16 and were billed to return on April 24.