Domestic Airlines May Lose N21bn to Abuja Airport Closure – Thisday

Chinedu Eze

Nigerian airlines may lose about N21 billion due to the planned closure of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport on March 8, for the rehabilitation of the runway of the airport.

For the period which the Abuja airport will be shut down, Kaduna airport will be used as an alternative. However, THISDAY learnt that due to safety and security challenges associated with the Kaduna Airport, some airlines may not use it as alternative airport. Also because of security fears some air travellers may not go to Kaduna and travel by road back to Abuja. Some would prefer to travel to Abuja from Lagos, so the airlines would lose huge revenue.

An airline operator told THISDAY that the airline would use Minna airport as alternative to Kaduna. Informed source disclosed that Minna has fire cover which puts it at Category 6 airport. Although it has airfield lighting but it also lacks complement manpower, as some of the staff from Abuja airport would now be seconded to Kaduna, which has been designated as alternative to Abuja.

Sources in the travel industry have said that due to security reasons and poor infrastructural upgrade at Kaduna airport, the traffic on the Abuja route will drop by 40 per cent once the closure comes into effect and many are of the view that the six week planned for the completion of repair work at the airport runway would not be enough and may up to eight or more weeks.

“So passengers would cut down the frequency of their travel by air and may use alternatives when important businesses call and travel for leisure may come down to drastic low,” a source said.

Aviation security expert, Group Captain John Ojikutu (rtd), who is the Secretary General, Aviation Round Table, while suggesting that Minna Airport could serve as a better alternative considering the size of the airport, security reasons and proximity to Abuja airport, said smaller aircraft could still land and take off in that same airport, while work is on, using just 1000meters.

He explained that with the security issues in the northern parts of the country, none of the American and European airlines would want to fly to Kaduna.

“I doubt in any international airline will take the risk of flying to Kaduna. They will rather land in Lagos and drop passengers there, a situation which may be discomforting to passengers,” he added.