British Airways has relocated their operations to the new terminal of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport (NAIA) Abuja on Tuesday when it landed its B777-300 at 4:40 a.m.
The airline has, therefore, beaten the ultimatum given to all international airlines by Federal Airport Authourity of Nigeria (FAAN) to relocate to the new terminal on or before April 30.
The flight had 220 passengers and crew onboard comprising 207 passengers and 13 crew members as well as one infant.
With the relocation of the British Airways to the terminal, all the 12 international airlines operating in the airport have effectively relocated their operations to the terminal that was inaugurated in December 2018.
Mr Sani Mahmud, Regional General Manager, North Central, Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), said the relocation of BA to the terminal would lead to full utilisation of the facility.
Mahmud, who also doubles as the Airport Manager for NAIA, said that he was fulfilled that the airline had finally joined others in the terminal, saying it would help the authority streamline its international operations.
He said that the management would ensure that the facility is properly maintained and enhances sanity in the terminal.
The manager called on other foreign airlines to take advantage of the facility to extend their operations to the airport, adding that the terminal had the space for passengers’ comfort.
He said that the old international terminal would be renovated, adding that the government would come up with a policy on this.
“We are feeling fulfilled, we started with the commissioning of the airport by Mr president on the 20th of December 2018 and we prepared and started receiving flights immediately into the terminal with Asky.
“Today, all our 12 international airlines have moved in, the last being the British Airways.
“We are sincerely grateful to government for providing this edifice and you can see from the faces of the passengers that they are all happy to be in a new facility like this.
“And we want to assure Nigerians and the world that the team in Abuja airport is competent enough to maintain this facility.
“We are only hoping for more international airlines in view of the facilities and the fact that Abuja airport is certified because we have been the best in safety in Africa, 2018.
“We believe that with these credentials, more international airlines will come into Abuja airport.
“We have a strong team here that are capable of maintaining this facility and we are meeting with all the agencies working in the airport regularly to synergise on smooth operation in the terminal,” he said.
Mahmud however, advised all international passengers traveling out of Abuja to henceforth drive straight into the new terminal by taking the road into the train station.
Sen. Garshom Bassey, Cross River South, who was on the flight, said that the problem with Nigeria had been about sustainability in standards, urging FAAN to ensure that the standard was maintained.
He said: ”it looks wonderful, it looks beautiful, clean, well maintained but my hope is that the authorities would be able to maintain this so that if you come back here in five years’ time it will look exactly like this.”
Bassey however called for private sector involvement in the running of airports to eliminate dependence on government budget.
“It is important that some of the entities that the private sector may be interested in are handed over to the private sector and taking it off the federal budget. That way, it will be more efficiently ran.
“I think that is how it is done in most parts of the world now because you hardly see any airport that is run by government. Most airports especially in the developed world are run by private sector and some on PPP arrangements.
“So my advice is that the aviation authorities look into these kinds of options so that you can generate revenues and you don’t have to wait on federal budget for revenue just to maintain the airport,” he said.
Former Deputy Governor of Plateau, Mrs Pauline Tallen, also commended the effort of the government at providing a befitting airport terminal for the country.
Tallen also commended the immigration and other officials for proper conduct, urging that the standard be maintained.
”I pray that we continue to maintain the facility because maintenance is our problem in Nigeria so that we can meet with other developed nations.
Olorogun Emerhor, Chieftain of the APC in Delta State, who was also on the flight, expressed satisfaction with the facility and commended government effort in aviation sector.
”It is exciting to see that we are in Nigeria, it is a very good facility and I must commend the government of President Muhammadu Buhari for making this to happen.
“We hope that we will keep the standard as it is because that is the test of whether Nigeria can keep a place like this working.
“The experience at the immigration screening is very smooth because the officers are courteous and firm and they are doing a good job,” he said.