By Ejike Ejike,
Ethiopia Airline, on Tuesday, began its official international flights from Kaduna to Addis Ababa, then to the rest of the world.
Recall that the Ethiopia Airline was the only international airline which diverted flights to Kaduna during the six weeks closure of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport runway for repairs recently.
Speaking at the airport after the first plane landed at about 12noon, the Minister of State, Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika assured the management of the airline of federal government support and called on other African airlines to patronise the Kaduna airport.
Also, the Managing Director, Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria, FAAN, Engr. Saleh Dunoma said “This flight is very important because you cannot invest in an airport like this and allow it to lie low. Traffic means a lot to any airport authority and to FAAN, Kaduna airport is key because this would open the ways for the development of the state. It is the intention of Kaduna State to make sure that development comes to it and you know most investors do not come by road, they don’t come by train but they want to fly.
“So, the international flight is starting today (Tuesday) as Ethiopian airline just started its maiden flight from Kaduna. It will open up the travel route to all the parts of the world. As they say, one kilometre of runway takes you to everywhere in the world but one kilometre of road cannot take you anywhere. So, this international flight starting will make any business man to come to Kaduna and also any businessman can link the rest of the world from Kaduna. As far as FAAN is concerned, you know our revenue generation depends on Flight, especially international flight. So as far as we are concerned, this is an opener for us to generate more revenue to maintain old facilties and investment made in this airport and we are very happy.
Speaking of the possibilities of other airlines operating international flights from Kaduna, Engr. Dunoma said “It starts with one airline and once other airlines sees that the first airline is making a lot of money, they would come in, it would draw attention. As the passenger number grows too, you will discover that other airlines would develop interest and they will start applying to join the race.”
He also assured of FAAN readiness, noting that
“We are ready to operate and we have sufficient manpower to handle the operations here. Before this time, we had enough manpower because we had very few flights but with additional international flight, things would go on smoothly.
“There is no discount for the airlines but we gave them maximum cooporation to make sure they succeed. At the beginning if there are issues, we would bend backwards to make sure that the starting is hitch free and as the traffic grows, and they continue to fly, if there are issues, we would sit with them to address the issues.”
While expressing his happiness, the Governor of Kaduna State, Malam Nasiru el’Rufai said “this is a very happy day for me and all of us in the Kaduna state government because when we came into office we recognised that Kaduna has two disadvantages. The first is that we do not have access to the sea and the second is that we do not have international flights flying into Kaduna.
“So our business men and citizens have to go to Lagos for access to the sea, or go to Abuja or other destinations for international flights. We decided that we had to work round clock to remove those disadvantages. l’m happy to say today that with this inaugural international flight out of Kaduna we have broken the ice.
“From today Kaduna is a full international airport and the people of this state do not have to travel anywhere to connect with over 100 destinations using Ethiopian Airlines. As for us in the Kaduna state government, we’ve already taken a decision that every employee of the government must take Ethiopian Airlines unless it is a destination that they do not go to.”
Elrufai assured the management of the carrier that the state government would fully support the airline in order to make the route viable and sustainable.