BusinessDay

Concerns over increasing aircraft amid limited parking spaces at airports

…FAAN mulls allotment of slots

Industry operators have raised concerns over inadequate parking spaces across Nigerian airports amid plans by existing airlines to acquire new aircraft just as new airlines are set to commence operations in 2022.

BusinessDay’s checks show that major airports operated by domestic carriers such as Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt and Enugu airports already have limited parking spaces or slots for airlines operating scheduled flights into these terminals and there may be challenges accommodating more aircraft without proper planning.

In a bid to avoid the crisis that could surround this challenge, the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) is mulling the allocation of slots.

This means that each airline would be allocated a slot for take-off and any operator failing to depart within the allotted time would be surcharged.

“There would be parking problems for the new aircraft and that is why we must revert to the arrangement of the 90s where operational bases are designated to each airline instead of concentrating in Lagos and planning movements for their first flights to originate from Lagos at first light,” John Ojikutu, aviation security consultant and secretary-general of the Aviation Safety Round Table Initiative (ASRTI) told BusinessDay.

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Ojikutu, who also suggested slot allocation for airlines as a way to ensure safety, reduce congestion and flight delays at the airport, said any airline that fails to operate within its allocated slot must be surcharged.

He said this will reduce unnecessary delays attributed as ‘due to technical reasons or operational reasons’ that cannot be proven to the passengers but which now have been attributed to the capacity of the terminals or capability of the terminal allied services.

“There has been an increase in the number of airlines and aircraft but the surge in the passengers may likely not go beyond the numbers recorded at Christmas season. However, FAAN should keep a programme for slots allocation handy should the situation continue or for future occasions,” Ojikutu said.

Nigeria’s aviation industry is expected to experience a flurry of activities in 2022, with new airlines coming up, and 22 prospective operators in the process of marking their presence in the skies.

Air Peace is expected to receive more Embraer aircraft in 2022. Ibom Air, the indigenous airline of the Akwa Ibom State Government, which has placed an order for 10 A220 aircraft with Airbus, is expected to receive some of the aircraft in 2022.

Overland Airways, a scheduled and charter operator in Nigeria which ordered six brand new Embraer E175s aircraft is also expected to acquire some this year.

NG Eagle has its Air Operating Certificate ready and has three aircraft on ground waiting to commence operation.

Olumide Ohunayo, an aviation analyst, told BusinessDay that the orders made by airlines last year is good news for the industry. However, there are concerns about the capacity of the airports to contain these aircraft and passenger surge if the economy gets better.

Ohunayo suggested that airlines and airport authorities have to work together and start to look at the slot system for the busy airports only.

He said the slot system will also bring some discipline to airlines when they understand the cost of losing a slot at a space-constrained airport.

He also advised airlines to consider making less busy airports their hub and operational base to decongest traffic at busy airports.

“If airlines can afford to do night stops outside Lagos, it will reduce bottlenecks being experienced in Lagos. FAAN needs to extend the operational hours of these airports to reduce the bottlenecks in the major airports. Once you extend the working hours, more flights will run into the night, and if more flights run into the night, airlines can begin to look at having night stops.

“Instead of flights departing early in the morning from Lagos, they can depart from other cities into Lagos and continue from there. We need to extend the operational hours of all the airports to about 24 hours, so we can have more extended hours, more frequencies and reduce blockage we are having now,” he explained.

He also said the Federal Government needs to ensure the uncompleted terminals in Lagos and Enugu are completed to reduce bottlenecks in other airports.

Seyi Adewale, chief executive officer – Mainstream Cargo Limited told BusinessDay that the space constraint across major airports can be addressed if the sector is able to attract new investors who will bring new funds to build or expand runways, develop unoccupied airport (land) spaces to build aircraft parking space or hangers, introduce slot management in order to manage imminent traffic and remodel the airport for better efficiency.

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