Although Acting President Yemi Osinbajo has said the Kaduna airport is conducive for use for international flights, some operators have disagreed, and insisted on using other routes.
The Nigerian is to shut the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja for six weeks, starting March 8, to effect repairs on its runways, and has asked airlines operating in the country to route their flights through the Kaduna Airport for the period.
However, a number of have expressed security concerns over the use of the Kaduna Airport, and called on government to consider Minna airport in Niger State as an alternative route as well.
While on a visit to the Kaduna airport on Friday, Osinbajo urged the airlines to bear the situation and be ready to work with the Federal Government to achieve its objective of delivering a safe and secure aviation sector.
He also lamented that many foreign airlines have declined to use the Kaduna option, but that government is meeting with them, and discussions are ongoing. “I think we need to tell the foreign airlines that this is an emergency and a temporary arrangement and they should be ready to work with us because we are concerned about safety and comfort”, he stated.
He expressed satisfaction with the level of work, even as he noted, that as a local airport, a lot of work needed to be done to bring it to the kind of standard that would be required.
However, some Helicopter service providers, including Helicopters (Nigeria) Limited, also advised government to consider providing Minna Airport as another alternative route, apart from the Kaduna Airport.
They have openly informed their Abuja customers that they would drop them at the Minna Airport from Lagos, or from any part of the country when the airport is eventually closed, and will not go to Kaduna.
This is even as Minister of State, Aviation, Senator Hardi Sirika was quoted as telling the foreign airliners that it is too late to start preparing afresh another airport as an alternative to Kaduna, with deadline very close at hand.
However, Bristow Helicopters, in a statement on Friday said as from March 8, it will increase its charter operation services targeting Minna Airport route for Lagos-Abuja bound passengers.
Another service provider, OAS Helicopters, said it would introduce permanent shuttle-wing charter services to cater for the business travellers across Nigeria to Abuja via Minna and partly Kaduna airports as soon the government closes the Abuja Airport.
Bristow’s head of Business Development, Mayowa Babatunde, stated: “After several safety and operational reviews, we are pleased with the state of the runway and conditions of the Minna Airport located in Niger State, North Central Nigeria.
“We will use Minna to continue the provision of seamless charter air travel to Abuja for corporate and business organizations”.
He further said that from the Minna Airport, Bristow will provide helicopter shuttle services to the VIP wing of the Abuja International Airport, with two helicopters already dedicated for that
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