NANTA Tasks FG On Abuja Airport Second Runway
…Says Association In Total Support Of The Impending Repairs
…Urges Govt To Provide Free Shuttle Buses From Kaduna To Abuja Airport For Passengers
As the Federal Government prepares to close the only runway at the Nnamdi Azikwe Airport(NAA),Abuja for six weeks to effect repairs, the National President of National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies (NANTA), Mr Bankole Bernard has called on the Minister of Aviation, State, Senator Hadi Sirika to commence the implementation of a second runway project in Abuja Airport.
He made the call while speaking with journalists in Lagos on Abuja Airport runway closure, the issues surrounding the closure and the position of NANTA as body representing travel agencies in the country.
Bernard hinted that NANTA as the umbrella body of all the travel agencies in Nigeria, it has made it clear to the Minister that the construction of Abuja Airport runway is a must to avoid a repeat of the situation passengers, airlines, ground handling companies and other stakeholders found themselves today.
Abuja Airport second runway, he stated could be achieved either by using the Public Private Partnership (PPP) or through concession, adding that “the earlier we do just that the better for Nigerian aviation.”
In his words, “We have made our position known to the Minister. We have made him to understand that Abuja Airport second runway is inevitable, NANTA will also use every opportunity it has to talk about the for Abuja Airport to have second runway.”
The NANTA boss stated that the rehabilitation of the Abuja runway which the Federal Government would start on March 8, 2017 was long overdue; adding that the life span of the runway is 20 years but lamented that today the runway is over three decades, wondering why it would not collapse.
According to him, “Abuja Airport runway has been overstretched .NANTA is in total support of the repair. We don’t subscribe to managing the runway in its present state.”
Bernard posited that now that government and stakeholders have agreed to close the faulty runway, it should take certain steps to cushion the effect of the closure on the airlines and passengers.
One of the steps, the NANTA President stated should be the provision of free shuttle buses service from Kaduna Airport to Abuja by the Federal Government to prevent a situation, where air passengers would bear the cost of transporting themselves from Kaduna to Abuja Airport, as according to him the closure was not their making.
Some of the buses at Abuja Airport, he argued can be deployed for this purpose or in the alternative let the Federal Government lease buses to ferry passengers from Kaduna Airport to Abuja for the six weeks duration of the project.
According to him, “We are recommending that the government should provide free shuttle for the passengers because is not the passengers that planned to go to Kaduna, but due to the maintenance of the runway, the passengers have been left with no option than to go to Kaduna. Since there Is no money and the government might not want to incur additional expenses, there are buses used at Abuja airport, some of these buses can be deployed and be used, some of the buses can be leased so as to carry out the assignment for six weeks, it can be outsourced so that some companies will do the service for six-weeks for the government.”
He also advocated for the international airlines to operate from Lagos while local carriers would help the foreign carriers to distribute their passengers on arriving in Lagos to Kaduna Airport.
The NANTA boss argued that most of the international airlines operate at night and that none of these carriers would put its crew on the road at night bearing in mind that there is crisis in Southern Kaduna.
Bernard added that this is very important to forestall a situation where international airlines will stop flying to the Abuja while Nigeria on the hand loses the route.
“We don’t want to lose that route, as result let them fly out from Lagos Airport and if we do that our local carriers will benefit from the arrangement “he said.
On the possibility of the international carriers synergising with local airlines to distribute their passengers on arrival in Lagos due to the frequent delays, cancellations and the issue of non arrival of luggage by some airlines, the National President said that it is the negligence of the local airlines that brought about flight delays and cancellations.
He added that the funniest thing is that these airlines don’t misbehave when they operate international routes.
According to him, “They synergy between local and foreign airlines will work if we are all committed. Our local airlines don’t misbehave when they operate international routes.”
Recalled that the Federal Government had set aside N1.1 billion to upgrade the facilities at the Kaduna Airport for use during the closure of Abuja Airport.