BA joins SAA, others to stop operations to NAIA over runway closure

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British Airways has joined some other foreign airlines that resolved not to fly to or operate from the Kaduna Airport after the closure of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport (NAIA), Abuja on March 8, 2017.

Other international carriers which had taken similar decisions earlier include South African Airways (SAA), Lufthansa, KLM-Air France.

They cite safety and security challenges as reasons for their action.

BA, on its part said its London-based management had taken some far-reaching decisions not to operate to Kaduna Airport.

The carrier which attributed its decision to logistic problems would however operate its Abuja flights to Lagos twice daily.

It assured that it would immediately resume operations after the completion of work on the Abuja airport runway that is expected to undergo total overhauling for six weeks, starting from March.

The airline’s country manager, Mr. Kola Olayinka said the carrier would assess its best options for its customers during the closure period of the runway.

“BA will not be operating to Kaduna during the planned closure of the Abuja Airport. Many factors were considered before this decision was reached, major ones are concerned about the safety and security of our passengers as well as difficulties around some key operational issues.

“We are currently evaluating all options for our customers planning to travel at that time and we will be reaching out directly to them for information about their trip,” he said.

Besides, he said Kaduna Airport lacks adequate catering and simple technology like the common user terminal equipment.

Earlier, the airline said it would soon reach out to the Nigerian government to give an official response to whether or not it would move its operations to Kaduna from Abuja.

South African Airways (SAA) wrote a letter to the minister of state for aviations Senator Hadi Sirika informing him that it would stop operating flights to Abuja on the March 6, 2017, two days before the closure of the airport.

The letter which was signed by the airline’s chief commercial officer, Mr. Aaron Munetsi said 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 March 6 until the April 18, 2017.”

However, the carrier 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.”

A Lufthansa source who confirmed the airlines planned withdrawal from Abuja following the runway closure said: There are no plans to operate to Kaduna Airport by the airline. We will soon suspend our operations to Abuja and return to the airport once it is re-opened for flight operations. We don’t have any codeshare arrangement with any Nigerian airline at least for now.

“So, for those who have already book ahead, we will give them alternatives, either Lagos or Port Harcourt that we still fly into. We will offer them ‘no fee booking option,’ which is the industry standards and if any passenger still doesn’t want to fly with.”

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