aviation

Evaluating International Flight Operations from Enugu Airport

August 19, 2022

In 2013 the federal government responded to many years of clamour of the people of South-east Nigeria to have international airport in their zone by designating the Akanu Ibiam Airport, Enugu as international airport.

Before then there was no international flight emanating from the zone and till today, there are only four airports that process scheduled international flight services in Nigeria, which are the airports in Kano, Abuja, Lagos and Port Harcourt; so Enugu became the fifth airport for international flight service.

It was historical on August 24 2013 when Ethiopian Airlines, designated by the federal government, airlifted its first passengers from the Enugu airport to Addis Ababa in an augural ceremony that drew emotional tears from many who witnessed the event, including the then Minister of Finance and currently the Director General of the World Trade Orgonaisation (WTO), Dr. (Mrs.) Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.

THISDAY monitored the return flight when many passengers from the zone flew directly from different parts of the world and connected to Enugu airport via Addis Ababa. On landing, many of the passengers overwhelmed by excitement, called their loved ones to inform them that they landed from overseas to the Enugu airport.

Since then Ethiopian Airlines has remained steadfast on that route, suspended flights when the airport was closed for rehabilitation and resumed flight operations in 2020 after the COVID-19 lockdown.

Recently, the management of Ethiopian Airlines has called on the people of the zone to make use of the Akanu-Ibiam International Airport, Enugu, for overseas travel, instead of going to Lagos or Abuja to board flights.

The Traffic and Sales Manager of the company in Enugu, Henok Sirak, said that there is a flat rate for international flight tickets for Enugu and Lagos Airports and wanted to create awareness to increase the number of international passengers from Enugu airport.

“We organised this awareness to meet our target in Enugu. Since it was made an international airport, we have been flying three times a week, but we are going to fly four times a week — Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays.

“People of Enugu, Anambra, Ebonyi, Imo, and Abia can now fly and cargo their import and export from Akanu-Ibiam International Airport, Enugu to over 125 destinations and routes in over five continents including, Asia, Africa, South America, North America, and Europe. We give full-fledged passenger-cargo service.

“We have the same price for flights leaving from Lagos, Abuja, and Enugu for cargo. So, customers from Enugu don’t need to bother sending their cargo to Abuja and Lagos since the price is the same. That’s the advantage we give to the people of the South East and Port Harcourt. We have adjusted the price so that passengers can get the benefits of using Enugu airport.

“Finally, I am appealing to all the South Easterners traveling to use Ethiopian Airlines and fly from Enugu to any part of the world. We are operating with a modern aircraft. We are currently using Boeing 787″.

THISDAY also learnt that many people from the zone are not patronising the airport, but rather travel overseas through Abuja and Lagos instead of using the airport closest to them, which was exactly what they protested against some years ago when the insisted on having international airport in their zone.

THISDAY learnt that cargo freighting has been going on through the airport but the volume of cargo is “not encouraging yet.”

The major produce that is exported from the Enugu airport is chilly, popularly known as Nsukka pepper. This is a variety of pepper that is highly sought after in Europe and grows in the temperate climate of the Nsukka area of the state.

Informed source told THISDAY that the farmers wanted to collaborate with the Enugu state government to assist them in expanding plantation through irrigation or digging of boreholes to water their farmland.

“The state government has promised to support them but they needed to have boreholes in their farms so that they will cultivate more land and reap bigger produce, but the state government is yet to embark on this project. Those who are into freighting of this perishable produce are of the view that if they could increase the volume of their produce it would be a money-spinning venture that would empower the people of the rural communities. The exports will engage them with jobs and the needed finance. So providing them boreholes would be a significant empowerment by the state government,” a freighter told THISDAY.

Customs agents who operate in Enugu and environs are encouraging South East people to fly through the Enugu airport instead of going to Abuja or Lagos and also to move their cargo through the airport.

One of agents told THISDAY that it would cost less in terms of logistics to move cargo from the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu than to go to Abuja or Lagos because of proximity.

“I think the problem we have is information. Many of our people do not know that it is far easier to take your flights from the Enugu airport and even move your cargo from the airport than from any other place. How can you travel to Lagos or Abuja to board a flight you can just drive from your house to Enugu and board the same flight? What I understand is that many of us do not know that Ethiopian Airlines is still providing service from the Enugu Airport. People should be sensitised and as I am talking to you that is what I am doing. It costs you less and it is more convenient for you. We should let people know this fact,” he said.

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