With the huge Abuja traffic moving into Kaduna Airport in the next five weeks, some logistic problems have reared their head. Concerted efforts by aeronautical agencies can mitigate the problems, KELVIN OSA OKUNBOR reports
Despite all the preparations, it seemed nothing was done when flight operations began last week. Passengers have tales of woes to tell. They are complaining of ill-preparations by airlines and ancilliary service providers.
From absence of point of sales (PoS) terminals, automated teller machines (ATMs), automated passenger processing and profiling equipment, airlines and passengers are struggling to align their businesses with prescribed standards mandated by the International Air Transport Association ( IATA).
Though critical safety and security facilities, including screening machines and points are manned at the airport by personnel, Common User Terminal Equipment (CUTE) and other Automated Operations Management System (AOMS) are yet to be installed at the airport.
The global airlines and regulator insist these facilities ? CUTE and AOMS ? as prescribed by IATA, should be made available at airports to simplify the business of travel by easing passenger processing and facilitation.
The use of the Kaduna Airport, according to the Minister of State, Aviation, Hadi Sirika, is an intervention to make way for major repairs of Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja. But many passengers said the closure of Abuja airport for flights could have been delayed until all facilities are fixed in Kaduna.
Investigations reveal that aviation fuel suppliers, airline catering, and other ancillary service providers only mobilised limited equipment and personnel to Kaduna Airport to match the scale of flight operations.
At the moment, Ethiopian Airlines is the only foreign carrier operating flights into Kaduna Airport.
Other foreign carriers, including British Airways, Lufthansa German Airlines, South African Airways, Air France/KLM cited logistics a few months ago as part of the reasons they would not operate flights into the airport.
Sources hinted that regional carriers, such as ASKY Airlines, may join Ethiopian airlines to connect passengers into and out Kaduna Airport if more logistic and facilitation equipment are provided at the airport.
But nine scheduled domestic carriers ? Air Peace, AZMAN Air, Medview Airlines, Aero , Arik Air, DANA Air, Overland Airways and First Nation Airways have been struggling to keep their operations afloat at Kaduna Airport in the face of limited facilities.
An airline operator who pleaded not to be named said government should have partnered with financial institutions to provide banking facilities.
There are no automated teller machines at the new terminal for passengers who find it convenient to carry out payment for fares and extra luggage using cashless platform.
In an interview, last week in Kaduna, Sirika said government is aware of the challenges at Kaduna Airport. He said efforts were on to improve the state of facilities.
Sirika said: ?This is to thank travelling passengers into and out of Kaduna consequent on closure of Abuja Airport to attend to some safety concerns that the runway has completely failed.
?We diverted operations to Kaduna and we did tremendous amount of work to get Kaduna to be efficient enough to serve the purpose.
?We also want to say to Nigerians that this thing is temporary, they should bear with us in this time of emergency situation. Of course, they may observe some lapses. It is not intentional. Once they find that out, we have a system in place where they can lodge their complaints and it will be attended to.?
Investigations also revealed that many business class passengers are disappointed over non-completion of a business lounge, business centres, functional eateries, and other support facilities to keep them busy while they await their flights at Kaduna Airport.
Though some passengers are excited over diversion of flights into Kaduna Airport, they say the government should provide business support facilities to enable airlines carry out seamless operations.
A passenger, who identified himself as Toriola Stevens, expressed disappointment that some airlines operating at Kaduna Airport do not have points of sales terminal facilities .
He said the absence of such has encouraged some airlines to hike fares at late hours.
He said: ?Airlines at the airport do not even have PoS machines for people to buy tickets.
??One airline decided to hike its price exponentially because passengers were to pay with cash. The airline claimed that they have closed their counters.
??Why should we start using an international airport that does not have any banking facility , no ATM machine, Stevens asked. To get money you have to travel many kilometres outside the airport, in the outskirts of city to get money. This is not convenient for passengers,?? he added.
Another passenger, who identified herself as Linda Ufot, said she was trapped at the airport because of absence of banking facilities.
She said it was of no use to have an international airport without standard facilities.
Ufot said: ?I almost turned to a beggar last week when I travelled through the airport.
??I had looked forward to using my debit card to get some money for my air fare only to discover there were no ATM machines.??
Air navigation facilities
The Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) has assured airlines, pilots and other stakeholders of smooth air navigation services at Kaduna Airport.
Its Managing Director, Captain Fola Akinkuotu, who spoke to reporters at the airport, said the airspace agency had mobilised relevant personnel and equipment to ensure safe flights.
Akinkuotu said the instrument- landing systems and other air navigation equipment were working effectively and had been flight checked by the pilots of many airlines.
He said NAMA has back ups for the relevant air navigation equipment.
According to him, apart from the old aerodrome safety and fire security tower from where air traffic controllers give advisory services to pilots, NAMA had also mobilised its mobile tower from Abuja into Kaduna to ensure smooth flights.
He said pilots of many airlines have flown into Kaduna Airport using installed air navigation equipment in line with global standards.
He said airport operations is not about the terminal building, but critical safety equipment that will ensure smooth take-off and landings of aircraft.
He said fixing such critical safety equipment is what NAMA has done.
Akinkuotu said: ?NAMA has provided safety facilities because our work is navigation, surveillance and communication. NAMA is very satisfied that it has done a good job.
?The glide scope, the instrument landing system are in place, we have the approach air field lighting that actually complement the instrument landing system.
?The mobile tower from Abuja is already in Kaduna working fine. Even our air traffic controllers, engineers, aeronautical information services officers, air traffic communication officers are on ground to fix any equipment that requires any repair.
?We have deployed both equipment and personnel to strategic areas of need to ensure seamless flow of traffic at the airport during the six-week period.
?We installed a digital Instrument Landing System (ILS) at Kaduna airport.?
Other facilities already deployed to Kaduna Airport, Akinkuotu said, include a low-level wind shear alerting and other cooling systems.
?The Performance Based Navigation (PBN) procedures for satellite-based navigation capability have been published for aircraft that are equipped to use it for approach and landing, rather than ground aids,?he added.