Domestic Airlines May Lose N5bn as FAAN Shuts Lagos Airport Runway for Lighting from Today

aviation - July 8, 2022

Fifteen years after the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) unveiled the domestic runway of the Lagos airport after reconstruction without the runway lights, FAAN will from today close the runway, known as Runway 18 L, for three months to install airfield lighting.

In 2008 the domestic runway of the Lagos airport was unveiled after reconstruction without the runway light. FAAN assured then that the airfield lighting would be installed in few months, but this never happened till almost 15 years later.

During the rehabilitation of the runway, which lasted for over two years, airlines incurred huge losses, prompting the Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) to complain to the federal government then.

Consequently, there are palpable fears that local airlines may lose over N5 billion in three months, which is the cost of fuel burnt in taxing from the international runway of the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos to the domestic terminal 1 and 2, known as General Aviation Terminal (GAT) and MMA2 respectively.

The FAAN had announced that it would close the runway today to install airfield lighting that would enable aircraft to land and take from the facility in the night.

Taxing from the international runway to the domestic terminals takes average single isle aircraft about 30 minutes and during taxing the aircraft burns fuel.

The average Boeing 737 classic burns about 500 litres of fuel taxing for 30 minutes, which at N700 per litre would cost an airline N350, 000 during landing and the same cost during take off.

For three months domestic aircraft movement to and from Lagos, according to FAAN’s 2021 traffic records is about 15, 000, which would cost the airlines N5, 250, 000.

FAAN in a statement said, “As part of efforts aimed at improving safety and efficiency of flight operations at the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos, the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) has concluded arrangements to complete the installation of CAT III Airfield Ground Lighting system on Runway 18L/36R.

“The project, which will commence effectively today, is expected to last for 90 days. Consequently, Runway 18L/36R will be closed to flight operations during this time. However, stakeholders are to note that there will be no disruption. All normal flight operations will be conducted through runway 18R/36L. A NOTAM (Notice to Airmen) to this effect has already been published and disseminated accordingly.”

However, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Aero Contractors, Captain Abdullahi Mahmood, commended the federal government, especially the Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, for making history by installing the airfield lighting, 15 years after the rehabilitation of the runway when FAAN separated the contract of the runway construction from the airfield installation, which was a rarity.

Captain Mahmood, however, acknowledged that that airlines would lose huge resources to the closure of the runway, despite the fact that domestic airlines and others would benefit from the installation of airfield lighting.

He lamented that airlines have suffered so much, struggling to provide critical service to the country, but face the issue of high cost of aviation fuel, which is threatening their existence.

“Another problem is the closure of Runway 18L, which is the domestic runway. This is good for us because when they install the airfield lighting we will benefit from it and we know that it is long overdue. We thank the federal government and the Minister of Aviation who made what hitherto seemed impossible, possible. But it is still our problem. That period the runway will remain closed airlines will lose money. It takes about 30 minutes for aircraft to taxi from the international runway to the domestic terminal. That is huge cost in fuel.

“I am even suggesting that airlines that can do it should move their operations to other airports. It will be a huge cost to airlines. Now aviation fuel in Lagos is about N715, Abuja, N745, Kano, 750 and Maiduguri, N780 per litre. This is huge challenge for us,” he said.

Recently the Managing Director of FAAN, Capt. Rabiu Yadudu, explained in an interview that the airfield installation at the runway was being delayed by legal constraint because the company contracted to install the facility sued FAAN to court and assured that the Minister was doing everything possible to provide that critical infrastructure to the runway.

The FAAN Managing Director also said that it was the wish of the agency to make all airports operate 24 hours but that could be done at some cost.

“FAAN want all airports to operate 24 hours because it is a business for FAAN. We earn our revenue from the operations; we are a service delivery agency, but the challenge is, will the 24/7 pay for itself? Somebody has to pay for the 24/7 operations. Will the business pay for itself? If we open an airport with just only three landings, FAAN will close down. No organization in the world will do that. Even if you go to Europe, you will find out that many airports are sunrise to sunset. You can operate an airport even for sunrise to midday so that everybody that knows should go around that window.

“FAAN cannot operate an airport that we cannot breakeven, because we are already challenged. We want 24/7 days airport, but we need to know if the business will be sustainable. At first, some of the businesses may look as if they are sustainable even for the next two years. So, somebody must be ready to have the business model to sustain 24/7 operations,” he said.

However, airline operators said that with the airfield lighting installed in more airports, airlines would be able to abide by their flight schedule with very minimum flight delays and cancellations.

“If you look at weather issues now, there are delays of flights to Port Harcourt, Benin, Owerri because of harmattan weather. We will later operate to these airports because they have airfield lighting, but we will fly to the daylight airports first in order to beat 6 p.m. when they will be closed for flights.

“So, if airfield lighting is installed we will be able to operate our schedules that we publish. In terms of additional revenue, it will affect the bottom line. If we operate we earn more revenue because of the extended flight time. The installation of the equipment will enable us to maintain our schedule integrity despite VIP movement and weather that could cause delays. Above all, it will reduce our cost and add to our benefits,” one of the operators told THISDAY.

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