Categories: Business

Airline Operators Fault FAAN On Runway Closure, Demand Review

A file photo showing the new terminal at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos.


The Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) has criticised the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) for the manner in which it shut down the domestic runway (18L) of the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos.

In a letter to the Managing Director of FAAN, the airline operators accused the agency of failing to comply with international best practices in shutting down the runway.

The operators are demanding an urgent meeting between FAAN and stakeholders to develop a process “that limited both the cost impact on airlines as well as disruptions to normal flight operations”.

They said while the effort to install a new runway was welcome, the notice was too short, leading to negative consequences.

“The AON received with surprise the NOTAM of 5th July 2022, for a period of 90 days,” the operators said in their letter dated July 15.

“With such short notice, we note sadly that FAAN went ahead to close the runway, causing unsustainable additional operating costs and severely inconvenience the airlines and passengers.”

The operators believe the difficulties faced and costs incurred would all have been better managed if FAAN had engaged relevant stakeholders.

“International best practice for such critical airfield infrastructure projects is for the airport operator to enter into discussions with all affected parties, to arrive at an optimal arrangement that allows work to be done while limiting the inconvenience, economic impact, and safety implications on all concerned. In this instance, FAAN failed to do this,” they said.

This situation, according to them, worsens an already difficult condition occasioned by the soaring cost of aviation fuel.

“The closure of the main domestic runway of MMA automatically adds an additional 10-15% more fuel costs per sector into and out of MMA, based on the additional flight and taxi time incurred as a result,” they said.

“The airlines have already felt these additional costs within the first week of the closure of the runway. This unnecessary burden is unsustainable for an e-month period on the airlines.”

‘No Sign Of Work Ongoing’

Another implication of the runway closure, identified by the operators, is a chain of direct flight delays on a daily basis, which impacts the entire system of scheduled domestic flights in the country.

The operators believe that there are other options that could have been explored.

They said, “AON contends that in line with international best practices, runways of airports are only closed when there is no other option. For infrastructure projects such as this one on 18L, to limit the impact on flight operations, FAAN ought to have ensured that the contractor does the work at night when the runway is not in use.

“If there is an absolute need for the work to be done during daylight hours, then an agreement should have been reached with the runway users on what time window would allow this.”

The airline operators also identified another sour point to be what they have observed since the closure of the runway.

“For the major airport in Nigeria, AON notes with disappointment that Runway 18L has been closed for a week now with no evidence of any work going on,” they said.

“Yet, the airlines have been burdened with huge but unnecessary additional costs and flight delays. Surely this situation is not in the best interests of the industry.”

It was based on all of the issues raised that the airline operators called on FAAN to convene an urgent stakeholders meeting.

“AON assures FAAN of our commitment to partnering with FAAN to install the long overdue runway lighting on Runway 18L, in line with accepted international best practice,” they said.

Akinola Ajibola

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Akinola Ajibola
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