Cablegate: World Airways' Passengers Stranded in Lagos
080557Z Jan 04
UNCLAS LAGOS 000031
DEPT FOR CA/OCS/ACS/AF
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: CASC SOCI NI
SUBJECT: WORLD AIRWAYS' PASSENGERS STRANDED IN LAGOS
REF: ABUJA 2216
SUMMARY: According to Senior World Airways staff, all
flights to and from the United States to Lagos have been
cancelled effective January 1, 2004, until further notice.
This will affect between 800 and 1,000 curren ticket
holders. END SUMMARY.
1. On January 5, 2004, Embassy Econoff spoke with Senior
World Airways officials who confirmed the suspension of all
World Airways flights between the United States and Nigeria
effective January 1, 2004. World Airways told Econoff that
the airline chose not to renew its contract with Ritetime,
which served as the World Airways booking agent, after it
expired on December 31, 2003, because Ritetime owed World
Airways over USD 2 million in arrears payments for charter
services. This will leave between 800 and 1,000 passengers
stranded in Nigeria. When passengers arrive at the World
Airways office in Lagos, they encounter a sign on the door
that states "Effective immediately, all flights are
cancelled until further notice." World Airways' staff in
Lagos left for Belgium due to security concerns as airline
officials have received reports that stranded passengers are
creating disturbances in Atlanta, New York and Lagos.
2. ConOff is working to get a more accurate count of the
number of stranded AmCits; however, it is estimated that
more than half could be dual nationals. World Airways'
tickets are charter tickets and cannot be used on other
international flights. Any inquiries concerning World
Airways flights should be directed to Ritetime Travel in
Lagos, 011-234-1-270-5600 or in the United States at (770)
3. According to Nigerian news accounts, Ritetime Managing
Director, Dr. Peter Obafemi is promising a flight on
Thursday to get the stranded passengers out. We do not have
independent confirmation of this.
4. World Airways, through its public relations office in
Lagos will issue a press release in the next few days
explaining why they halted service.