Positioning Nigeria’s gateways as passengers-friendly facilities

Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja. Photo: Naijamod

Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja. Photo: Naijamod

AS the aviation industry is recording increase of passengers in air travel, the sector is expected to implement evolving technologies that would streamline its operations and provide enhanced services to the passengers.

The recent release by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) put the total volume of passengers airlifted by the domestic operators at 6,061,740 from January to July this year,while their foreign carriers freighted 2,341,748 during the same period.

It noted that this result would have been better but for the transition period and elections, which always restricts wide scale travel.

In recent years, improving the airport experience has moved beyond just offering self-service facilities at each checkpoint, to using the very latest technologies to interact with and passengers at every stage of their airport journey, ranging from iBeacons and wearable technology, to interactive digital displays and airport-wide Wi-Fi-based tracking solutions.

However, airports and airlines have taken a giant leap towards creating a digitally enabled, personalized, next-generation airport experience.

According to an IT survey, 80 per cent of passengers will have access to a full self-service suite by 2020. As a result, 91 per cent of airlines will invest in passenger mobile services and more and more tickets will be sold directly by airlines to their customers. Virtualization & cloud computing will be in full swing as 9 out of 10 airlines will have implemented Infrastructure as a service by this year.

Speaking recently on airport development, the Managing Director, the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Saleh Dunoma stated that: “Most of our airports have runway lighting. We have just installed solar runway lighting to six or seven airports in Yola, Benin, Port Harcourt, Maiduguri, and Kano. So most of these airports that require night operations have these facilities but what we do in order not to incur too much cost for FAAN, is to switch off power when there are no operations”.

“We reduce the hour of operation to 18 hours, so immediately after the last flight in the evening we close the airport. We will not open it until there is emergency. Closure does not mean that everybody closes and goes home, no; closure means that you have minimum lighting, few number of people at the airport; so that in the case of emergency operations we can just put everything on.

He added: “You know we are working on so many terminals. Some of them we almost demolished all of it and came up with a new design. Some of them as you are aware, have been completed and are in use. If you go to Kano, Benin, Owerri, all these have been commissioned. But those that are not commissioned we are looking at the resources that we have to make sure that they are completed. Just recently we paid some contractors and we are sure that they will come back to site and resume work and we will see activities on site”.

Speaking further, Dunoma said: “Some airports might not be generating enough revenue to pay for the entire requirements. Those are the airports that are termed unviable but it is our belief with time these airports will be viable. But what we need to do is to look at these airports and develop them strategically based on what you want them to be in future. We are thinking along that line, lets’ develop some airports as maintenance centres for example so that in those airports you can build hangars and technical facilities that will support the hangars.

“So such airports can be developed in those airports and that will bring business to those airports. While some airports are strictly passengers and cargo; some airports can be developed along the line of agricultural export. If you do that then that airport becomes viable.

“So we are talking to government and also planning to see that airports are followed based on what they are supposed to do in the nearest future so that the facilities you put in that airport depend on what you want the airport to be”, he stated.

Meanwhile, the Director General, the International Air Transport Association (IATA), Tony Tyler said: “Our customers, the billions of people who fly with no ill intention, continue to tell us that security is the biggest pain point in their journey. We have come a long way since the dark days that followed the 9.11 tragedy. A deepened working partnership of industry and governments has ample scope for further improvements”.

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