Airline operators in the country have called on the Federal Government not to jeopardise the growing status of the aviation industry as well as the lives of the people.
The operators’ association, speaking through its Secretary General, Muhammed Tukur, decried the state of the nation’s airports, saying they were becoming dangerous and incapable of accommodating the growing traffic.
The operators, who also lamented incessant blackouts at Abuja airport which resulted in diversion of international flights at the weekend to Lagos and Malabo, called for immediate construction of a second runway at the airport to accommodate the growing traffic.
Tukur advised that it would be better to shut the airport rather than "endanger the lives of the people".
According to the operators, the ongoing maintenance at the airport led to the shortening of the runway from its original 3,600 metres to 3,200 metres and, just last week, 2,200; a situation that makes it not too long enough for wide-body aircraft like the B747, A340, A330 and B777.
Corroborating Tukur’s claims, one of the operators of foreign airlines said that a Lufthansa aircraft with passengers could not land on Friday and decided to land in another airport following the blackout at the Abuja airport and the shortening of the runway.
"The inability of most of them to pick their passengers gave them no option than to lodge them in hotels in Abuja and Frankfurt because of the dislocation it caused to their passengers."
Those who were trying to connect their flights from all over the world on the Frankfurt-Abuja-Frankfurt flights also suffered considerable, while the carriers had to cough out additional costs on accommodation for passengers, the operator said.
Tukur explained that the operators, including foreign carriers, were worried over the loss incurred.
He added that there was no issuance of Notice to Air Men (NOTAM) to inform them of the terrible situation of the runway.
"We are worried that both international airlines and domestic airlines are losing money. If care is not taken, they will end up crashing planes. The agencies should not jeopardise the lives of people," he said
"We don’t risk the lives of the people. Any act that will make people nearly die, you can charge that person or government for attempted manslaughter–the law is there. If care is not taken, we will lose our cherished aviation category one status. The minister needs to sit down and map out her strategy on how to reposition the industry."
The Abuja airport has been disconnected from Power Holding Company supply and runs 24 hours on generator, making it susceptible to blackouts, three of which have already been reported in the first half of the year.