Passengers flying international routes with Abuja as destination will have to spend an extra N3 billion as a result of the refusal of foreign airlines to fly to Kaduna airport, or even codeshare with domestic airlines to drop off passengers in Kaduna airport, BusinessDay’s findings show.
According to the National Association of Nigerian Travel Agencies (NANTA), international airlines operate six daily flights into Abuja. The airlines include Lufthansa, British Airways, Air France KLM, Turkish Airline, Egypt Airline and Awa Airline.
The Federal Government plans to start diverting these flights to Kaduna, from March 8th, 2017, a situation that may not be comfortable for many passengers flying that route.
On each of the aircraft operated by international airlines, there is an average seat capacity of between 150 and 200 passengers, depending on the aircraft configuration, and each airline airlifts an average of 300 to 400 passengers for a return flight. The six foreign airlines operating into Kaduna airlift an average of 1,800 to 2,400 passengers daily.
BusinessDay’s checks show that if foreign airlines drop off passengers in Lagos to board domestic flights to Kaduna, or board domestic flights from Kaduna to Lagos, it will cost each passenger an extra N30,000.
This implies that on a daily basis, passengers will pay a sum of N54million to N74million on the Lagos-Kaduna route. During the six-week period for which the airport will be shut down, passengers will spend between N2.268billion and N3.108billion.
Also, experts have said that the decision of Bristow Helicopters and Omni Helicopters to fly passengers from Kaduna to Abuja, may receive low patronage, considering the cost implications, discomfort and security concerns.
BusinessDay’s checks show that it will cost passengers a sum of N60,000 to travel from Kaduna to Abuja using helicopters, which will be within a space of 45minutes and cost them a sum of N4,000 to shuttle by road from Kaduna to Abuja in two hours and forty-five minutes.
Muneer Bankole, Managing Director and CEO, Medview Airlines, last week told BusinessDay that his airline is open to partnerships with any foreign airline, to help them convey their passengers to Kaduna during the period the Abuja airport is closed.
Sources close to the domestic airlines also told BusinessDay that just like Medview Airlines, other domestic airlines are also open to partnerships but foreign airlines have rejected the decision to partner with them, citing logistics issues and insufficient time for proper planning and negotiations.
“We are not going to have any form of code sharing and we do not intend to have any partnership with domestic airlines. We do not have enough time to start a partnership with domestic airlines, as we need to agree and look at the technicalities.
“For operational reasons, we are not flying to Kaduna. We intend to drop passengers off at Lagos, after which they can take another flight of their destination or wherever they are going to,” Hakeem Jimoh, Media Consultant, Lufthansa Airlines told BusinessDay.
Also, British Airways said that after due consideration, it has reached a decision it would not operate to Kaduna Airport.
Kola Olayinka, country commercial manager for British Airways (Nigeria and West Africa), said the decision not to go Kaduna as an alternative airport to Abuja was as a result of lack of inflight catering services. He added that for the carrier to operate to Kaduna, it would need to bring along inbound and outbound meals which will prove a burden.
Asides that, Olayinka listed other constraints to include lack of common user terminals, Information and Technology equipment that would supports its operations, fear of baggage losses, especially for passengers going beyond London and difficulty of passengers travelling with children.
Aaron Munetsi, chief commercial officer, South African Airways, (SAA) said the airline would suspend its operations to Abuja from March 6 until April 18, 2017. The airline also did not disclose intentions to fly to Kaduna.
“SAA commends the Nigerian authorities, concerning the planned repairs of the Abuja airport runway. However, due to network and fleet operations planning, SAA regrets to advise that the airline will suspend its Abuja operations with effect from 6th March until the 18th April, 2017,” Munetsi added.
A source close to KLM-Air France said the airline would not fly into Kaduna because, according to the airline, there are no airline catering facilities in Kaduna that meet International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) criteria for international flights, aside from the other known reasons.
“If the airport is closed, the airport is closed; there is nothing we can do about it. We are looking at finding ways together with our airport department in Paris and Amsterdam to sooth the needs of our customers in the best ways. It could be via Port Harcourt or via Lagos but I am not sure what the future will be, or what the timing will be,” Arthur Dieffenthaler, commercial director, Nigeria and Ghana, Air France-KLM, said.
“Passengers will bear the brunt of the decision of foreign airlines not to operate Kaduna airport. The airlines are going to dump all the passengers in Lagos, while they find their way. Lagos will become more crowded. I expect the government to make adequate preparations to accommodate more traffic in Lagos,” Bernard Bankole, President, National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies (NANTA).
On the decision of helicopter operators to provide helicopter services from Kaduna airport to Abuja airport, Bernard said that there is a particular altitude helicopters can attain, as it will still take a longer time for people to get to Abuja using helicopters, adding that people are also sceptical about safety using helicopters.