The nation’s economy is losing a whooping N4.3billion annually to lack of 24-hour operation by sunset airports across the country.
NATIONAL ECONOMY reports that sunset airports are airports that do not have the infrastructure that enables flights to operate into the night. As a result, the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) limited few that have the infrastructure to only daylight operation, meaning that flights cannot service such airports after 6:30 pm.
Out of 22 airports managed by FAAN, only Abuja, Port Harcourt, Benin City, Enugu, Kano, and Kaduna airports have airfield lightning to enable flights land and take off on or after 6.30pm, while others are referred to as ‘Day Light’ airports.
The daylight airports are in Jos, Yola, Maiduguri, Anambra, Kebbi, Sokoto, Katsina, Ibadan, and Akure, with operational hours limit at 18.00 hours.
However, speaking at the 26th League of Airports and Aviation Correspondents (LAAC) Conference themed: “Sunset Airports: Economic and Safety Implications,” the chief operating officer (COO), Ibom Air,
George Uriesi, said lack of 24 hours flight operations to major routes in Nigeria was impeding the growth of the airlines.
According to him, the country’s carriers are losing an average of N4 million per flight, N12 million in every flight, N360 million in 90 flights and N4.3 billion annually on every flight lost to sunset airport operations.
Uriesi while delivering his paper: ‘Maximising Runway Utilisation: A Nigerian Airline Perspective,’ further disclosed that restrictions of airlines to daytime operation has led to a huge underutilisation of aircraft fleets by the Nigerian airlines as against the global industry standards.
He said, “This is due partly because of too many impediments in the operating environment that limit airline productivity. These include limited runway availability across the domestic network, multiple operational infrastructure deficiencies, poor organisation and many others.”
However, to solve the challenge, Uriesi appealed to the government to prioritise airfield infrastructure and provide the necessary Instrument Landing System (ILS) and accompanying accessories for every airport, while also keeping the aerodromes open to meet the needs of airlines and other users.
Besides, he advised that the government should make current, approved master plans a regulatory requirement for every airport and illegalise non-adherence to the master plans by any organisation.
“Establishing a local aircraft lessor, financing vehicle that would allow for the domiciling of aircraft payments in local currency would make a huge difference to the air transport sector in Nigeria,” he added.
On his part, the director, Centre for International Advanced and Professional Studies (CIAPS) Prof. Anthony Kila, in his paper presentation, said that NCAA should encourage the airlines to succeed without the relegation of safety.
In his paper presentation titled: ‘Passenger Experience In Daylight Airports,’ he stated that the aviation industry in the country was bedeviled with myriads of crises, stressing that high cost of flights and shutting down of airlines signified a bad omen for the country.
Kila called for total rethink and resetting of aviation industry by all players in the sector.
Kila also canvassed for the establishment of Bank of Aviation, which would make access to foreign exchange by airlines easier.
“We need to act swiftly and decisively to deal with this situation so that this very bad situation we have at hand does not turn into an unmanageable disaster. Decisive actions in this case will require a total rethink and resetting of the way we conceive and manage our aviation manners.
“There is a prevailing idea in the general public and amongst too many leaders of thought, opinion moulders and indeed policy makers that aviation is a sector that services the elites or the privileged, this is however an anachronistic misconception that needs to be deliberately and assertively corrected.
“Those who know and can need to find the clarity of mind and courage of voice to explain to the rest of the society that in the times we live in and with the size and structure of Nigeria, aviation has become and will remain a basic and essential infrastructure. With such conception in mind, the role of regulators in the sector will be radically modified,” he said.