By; BALA B, BITRUS, Minna.
Domestic airlines operating regular schedule and chartered flights from parts of the country to Abuja are still grandstanding on their rejection of the Kaduna airport insisting that besides the better runway at the Minna airport, using the Minna airport is economically cost effective and prudent for airline operators.
Two weeks after the Nmamdi Azikiwe International Airport Abuja was shut for repairs of it’s runway, and all flights to and from the airport routed to the Kaduna airport, most of the domestic airline companies are still begging that the government considers the use of the Minna airport as alternate airport for its proximity to Abuja and for its better runway.
As the controversy over the choice of Kaduna Airport by the Federal rages on, our correspondent gathered that no fewer than four domestic airline operators have been mounting pressure, lobbying the nations’ aviation authorities to grant another approval for the use of the Minna airport as second choice alternate airport.The choice and insistence by the federal government that Kaduna airport be used for both local and international flights have drawn the ire of not just many a citizens but airline operators as well.
Findings by our correspondent revealed that about four domestic airline operators who have ab- initio never hidden their displeasure over the federal governments’ preference and insistence for the Kaduna airport have been discussing with the aviation authorities to grant same right to the Minna airport to serves as alternate to the Nnamdi Azikiwe international airport.
Pressure and agitations in support of the Minna airport as against the Kaduna airport have remained upbeat and unrelenting by some industry players.
Two airline operators last week operated chartered flights into the Minna facility when they leveraged on the recent lifting of the ban on use of Helicopters within Abuja airspace to airlift passengers to Minna.
Bristow Helicopters had earlier expressed interest in ferrying it’s passengers on chartered flights to the Minna airport as it opted out of the use of the Kaduna airport.
A source close to one of the local airlines told our correspondent in Minna that there are ongoing discussions with the relevant authorities.
“There are ongoing talks with about five local airline operators to get approvals from aviation authorities to enable them open ticketing offices and extend operational routes to Minna instead of Kaduna”.The source hinted that “four of the airline operators have already perfected plans and have intensified lobbying the aviation authorities for approval to open offices and make use of Minna Airport because the choice of Kaduna airport is a very unpopular decision to them”.
He said it is very bad for the federal government to compel airline operators to fly the Kaduna routes when there is a more cost effective alternative to the operator.
According to our source, “We are in business and all we are trying to do is how we can protect our business and keep our esteemed customers who are traveling to northern states from other parts of the country”.
We have visited Minna and it happens to have one of the best runways in Nigeria and it is very spacious for navigations, taxing, take off and landing”.He said “flying to Kaduna is almost twice the time spent traveling to Minna from Abuja. Apart from better and spacious runway to accommodate both local and international planes, we are trying to keep our customer base as many of them have expressed fears over security situation in Kaduna”.Apart from many flights being cancelled due to the choice of Kaduna, the source further explained that all but one international airline, Ethiopian airline are opposed to the choice of Kaduna as an alternative airport to Abuja and this has affected customer patronage.About a week ago, the Senate President, Senator Bukola Saraki made an unscheduled visit to Minna airport which was his second visit to the airport in four weeks.
For now, the airport is witnessing more flights coming in than ever before. Last Sunday, one of the local airlines advocating for the use of Minna airport, airlifted some passengers who were in the state on a visit to a former Military Head of State.