International airlines operators have halted flights to Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport. The airlines have refused to fly the alternative route to the Abuja airport proposed by the Nigerian government to divert flights to northern Kaduna city and take passengers by bus on a journey of about 250km to Abuja.
The Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport will be closed from March 8 to repair potholes that have damaged planes in recent months. Aviation officials informed carriers that they can fly to Kaduna during that period.
The reason airline operators declined the offer was that it included an extra three-and-a-half-hours of travel time and on a road notorious for accidents and kidnappings.
About 270,000 international passengers used Abuja airport in the second quarter of last year, the most recent period for which figures are available, versus just three at Kaduna, according to Nigeria’s National Bureau of Statistics.
Deutsche Lufthansa AG was the first airline to announce that it will suspend flights serving the Nigerian capital Abuja while the city’s airport is closed for repairs, rather than switch to a more distant hub. An aircraft belonging to Lufthansa was damaged by the tarmac at Abuja’s airport earlier this year.
Air France and South African Airways have all said they will not re-route their flights to Abuja from Frankfurt, Paris and Johannesburg, to Kaduna or elsewhere in Nigeria.
Spokesperson to the South African Airways Tlali Tlali said that SAA did not want any inconvenience to its customers.
“As a network carrier, we considered an option to fly elsewhere in Nigeria during the repair works. However, such an option did not prove viable for us given its implications on our network as it would impact on aircraft availability and connectivity for our passengers,” Tlali said.
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 the 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.”
Turkish Airlines have not also made a decision but may most likely follow suit, as it has suspended ticket sales for Abuja flights during the closure.
Nigeria’s aviation ministry said the planned six weeks of resurfacing work was needed because the runway, which was built in 1982 with a 20-year lifespan, was dilapidated and unsafe.
There have been several reports that potholes have damaged aircraft, prompting one international carrier to recently cancel its flights on the route.