Two planes that brought back home Malawians who were stranded abroad were yesterday forced to circle the airport several times before landing, amid reports that the airport personnel was on a go-slow that saw the blocking of the runway.
The first plane was from South Africa in the morning and it carried 147 passengers from the Rainbow Nation who were caught on the wrong side of stiff two-month lockdown measures meant to curb the spread of the global coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic in that country.
The second, with about 50 passengers, was an Ethiopian Airlines plane in the afternoon, that flew in on special arrangement by a local travel agent, to ferry home Malawians trapped by Covid-19 lockdown measures that included the grounding of normal commercial flights.
People at KIA were astounded to see the two planes flying around several times above without being allowed to land normally. The pilots reportedly said they saw blockades on the runway until after the landing clearances for the two planes were given rather belatedly. Some witnesses said passengers had to wait a long time before being served by the airport staff.
Our sources say some airport staff have threatened a go-slow and an eventual strike by tomorrow unless the government addresses their grievances, including being given personal protective equipment (PPE). Among other demands the staff also want increased risk allowances.
Meanwhile, spokesperson for the Ministry of Transport and Public Works James Chakwera has said all the airport staff were on duty yesterday and he wonders how the airport services were temporarily paralysed, including the runway obstructions.
“It cannot be mere coincidence that both planes coming in to land could have spotted obstructions on the runway. So, we will investigate and get to the bottom of this matter,” he said.