Deutsche Lufthansa AG became the first airline to announce it will suspend its route to Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, while the airport is closed for six weeks for repairs, reports Blooberge.
Germany’s biggest carrier won’t take up a government proposal to divert its planes to Kaduna, a city about 140 miles (225 kilometers) away, spokeswoman Mirjam Eberts said by phone on Thursday. She didn’t give a reason for the decision. Lufthansa will continue to fly to Lagos, the commercial hub, and Port Harcourt, she said.
Nigeria plans to shut Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport for six weeks from March 8 to repair potholes on the runway, which have damaged planes in recent months. Aviation officials informed carriers that they can fly to Kaduna during that period. About 270,000 international passengers used Abuja airport in the second quarter of last year, the most recent period for which figures are available. That compares with three at Kaduna, according to Nigeria’s National Bureau of Statistics.
British Airways, owned by London-based IAG SA, said on Feb. 1 it was still deciding whether or not to fly to Kaduna.
“We doubt that the European airlines will fly to Kaduna out of concerns ranging from capacity to whether passengers can be shuttled safely between Kaduna and Abuja,” Michael Clyne, an analyst at DC Premium Logistic and Solutions Ltd., which advises companies about Nigeria, said in an e-mailed response to questions. “Kaduna experienced a kidnapping surge in 2016.”
An aircraft belonging to Lufthansa was damaged by the tarmac at Abuja’s airport earlier this year, Nigerian Transport Minister Rotimi Amaechi said last month, according to Lagos-based news website Vanguard. The runways were built to last two decades and have been in operation for 34 years, he said.
Other international airlines that fly to Abuja include Air France, Turkish Airlines, South African Airways and Ethiopian Airlines.