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Airlines divert to PHIA, Owerri as Enugu airport closes for repairs

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[File] Front view of the domestic wing of Akanu-Ibiam International Airport Enugu<br />PHOTO: LAWRENCE NJOKU

Airlines’ operators may have settled for the Sam Mbakwe International Cargo Airport, Owerri, Imo State, and Port Harcourt International Airport (PHIA) in Rivers State, as alternative to the Akanu Ibiam Airport, Enugu, currently closed for repairs.

The move follows the proposal by South-east governors for traffic to be diverted to Owerri to ease the difficulties of air travel into the region while the Enugu airport closure lasted.

Chief Pilot of a local carrier yesterday, said plans had been concluded to double the carrier’s frequency into Owerri, to accommodate Enugu-bound traffic from Lagos and Abuja.

“Enugu is one of the strategic local and international routes inwards Southern parts of the country. So, it gives a lot of headache to operating airlines as well as passengers that frequently use the airport to see it shut down. But safety is primary, so we all have to bear with the situation. We are ready to use the Owerri airport for the meantime,” he said.

Similarly, Ethiopian Airlines has disclosed plans to divert to PHIA, instead of closing down the Enugu operations.

The Chief Operating Officer (COO) of the airline, Mesfin Tasew, said operations would commence from Port Harcourt International airport, on September 3, 2019, and would continue until Enugu airport is reopened.

“Nigeria is the only African country where Ethiopian has opened four destinations. This demonstrates strengthened bilateral relation between Ethiopian and Nigeria. We will make every effort to provide and sustain excellent service in Nigeria as well as across the continent to help our customers access our global network,” he said.

The Governor of Ebonyi State and chairman of the South-east Governors’ Forum, Dave Umahi, had after a meeting with the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, said the Owerri option was opened to airlines and the airlines.

Umahi also assured that the repair works at the Enugu Airport would be carried out by two sets of contractors to ensure speedy completion by December 2019.

The exercise aims to reconstruct, extend the runway, and upgrade the landing facility for sunset operations.

“Other works like the cargo section, extension of the tarmac, buildings that were damaged by rain storm are also in the package.

“We are very committed, as South-east governors, to the safety of our people, for the convenience of our people, to ease all inconveniences and these we are going to do. Some states have already started and some states will also follow. And in the next one week we will totally roll out our palliative measures.

“On Sam Mbakwe Airport, the honourable minister said they had already met and a number of facelift will be given like the barbed wire, the tarmac, the buildings; they are all going to be given facelift, where most of these planes will be diverted to and we are very happy with that.

“South-east governors have already set up security committee; we shall inaugurate them today, one per state. They will play a major role with our security chiefs and also play role in this airport closure and diversion of flights,” he said.


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