The recent rating of Port Harcourt International Airport as the worst in the world by sleepingInAirports.net may have prompted the announcement by the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), that the re-modelling works at the facility and others in the country would be completed in 2016.
The authority assured the public that the situation was under control, as FAAN was doing everything possible to proffer solution to the challenges faced by all airport users, within the shortest time possible.
FAAN also stated that it would continue to upgrade facilities at the nation’s airports to ensure security, safety and comfort of all airport users.
Speaking during a working visit to supervise the on-going construction works at the airport, the Managing Director, FAAN, Saleh Dunoma assured the general public that the project would increase capacity and ensure delivery of efficient services at world-class standards and best practice as prescribed by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).
SleepingInAirports.net is a travel website that reviews the best and worst airports in the world. The website annually conducts a survey by asking air travellers to rate their airport experiences based on services and facilities available within the terminal, cleanliness, customer service, comfort and their overall airport experience.
However the rating did not go down well with the Federal government, as the airport is still under remodelling process, thereby not reflective of the reality of Nigerian airport
Indeed, Port Harcourt airport construction work is ongoing; the terminal in particular, is undergoing re-modelling with some of its terminal operations still conducted in a temporary structure (tent). Apart from the on going re-modelling of the existing domestic terminal, from which both international and local flight operations are conducted, construction work is also in progress at the site of the new international terminal, among other projects at the airport.
Consequently, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Aviation, Hajia Binta Bello recently stated in Lagos that Nigerian airports are not as bad as portrayed in the survey, though there were challenges at some of the international airports owing to construction works that are ongoing, stressing that the challenges would be over as soon as the projects are completed.
According to her, the constructions in the new terminals in Lagos, Kano, Abuja and Port Harcourt would be completed and commissioned by the first quarter of next year.
Her words: “It is up to readers to agree or to disagree on the rating. When I saw the rating, the question I asked is that do we still have touts at the airports, are our airports dirty, are we corrupt, do we agree with all those questions? It is something that I cannot categorically say, ‘yes we are corrupt, our airports are not clean, and our airports are congested, and so on’. I am sure you can actually see if these airports are actually dirty, if they are full of touts and if they are chaotic.
“This morning I flew in through Abuja airport and about five airlines were boarding at the same time. I did not see any chaos there, it was a smooth operation, passengers were going in their various buses assigned for the airlines and the whole operation was very smooth”.
“So I cannot accept that the airports are dirty, just as I cannot accept that the airports are congested. If we have a temporary challenge because of the construction of terminals that are going on in Abuja for instance, we all know that there is a lot of work going on there. If we have temporary challenge, it is something that will come to past immediately the terminals’ re-modelling is completed”, she added
Meanwhile, the Managing Director of FAAN, Saleh Dunoma said: “that those 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 we 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 suppose to do in the nearest future so that the facilities you put in that airport depends on what you want the airport to be”, he stated.
Also the Authority in a statement recently said: “Our stand therefore is that the said ranking was unfounded as it did not take cognisance of the fact that the Port Harcourt Airport terminal was still undergoing remodeling with some of its terminal operations still conducted in a temporary structure (tent).
“Apart from the on-going remodeling of the existing domestic terminal, from which both international and local flight operations are conducted, construction work is also in progress at the site of the new international terminal, among other projects at the airport”.
“We sincerely believe that operations at such an airport, where construction work is going on simultaneously with normal flight and related operations, cannot be as conducive as those in airports where there are no on-going construction projects. Neither can environments at such different scenarios be equally ‘clean.’”
FAAN said it was aware of the enormous challenges posed by the peculiar operational situation at the Port Harcourt International Airport and that is why it has taken several measures to alleviate the difficulties faced by passengers and other airport users at the airport.
It added that the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, MMIA1 in Lagos, where the lounge area space has been expanded to at least, three times its original size, last year. The immigration-processing desk has been increased from 8 counters to 44, enabling faster processing.