Foreign airlines threaten to suspend Abuja route operations

There are indications that most foreign airlines in the country may suspend flight operations to the nation’s capital following government’s decision to close down the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, NAIA, Abuja from March 8, 2017. South African Airways, SAA and British Airways have already signified their intentions to quit the lucrative and busy Abuja route network.

It was gathered that SAA had already written a letter to the Minister of State for Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika informing him that it would suspend flight operations to Abuja on the 6th March, two days before the closure of the NAIA. The letter from SAA to the minister signed by the acting chief commercial officer, SAA, Mr. Aaron Munetsi, stated that the airline would suspend its operations to Abuja from March 6 until April 18, 2017.

The letter read in part: “SAA commends the Nigerian authorities concerning the planned repairs of the NAIA 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.
“The airline promised to be in constant touch with the Nigerian aviation authorities as the repair work progresses in order to establish its readiness for revised operations in accordance with the work schedule,” the statement read in part.

British Airways, another foreign carrier was also said to be nursing a possible suspension of flights to the region. Although, a clear decision has not been made, sources close to the airline hinted that the British carrier would make its intention known to the government on its considerations on the directive to relocate flights to Kaduna Airport.
Lufthansa, the German Airlines has already stopped selling tickets to Abuja while KLM-Air France has indicated its plans not to operate into Kaduna Airport.
Foreign carriers that operate directly from their bases include British Airways, Air France, Ethiopian Airlines, Turkish Airlines, EgyptAir, South African Airways and Lufthansa Airways amongst others.
Few weeks ago, representatives of foreign airline operators in the country had pointed out that the Kaduna airport is not an option to them during the period the NAIA, Abuja, will be under repairs.
Emphasising more on their non- acceptance of the Kaduna option a representative of foreign airlines in the country, Osho Joseph was quoted as saying that the Kaduna airport may be a good option for local airlines but not for foreign.
“We believe Kaduna may be an alternative for local operators but definitely not for international airline operators. But we will get back on this,” Osho said.