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Abrupt Runway Closures Reason For Flight Delays, Cancellations– Aviation Officials

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Officials in the Aviation sector have decried the reoccurring sudden runway closures at airports especially at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos and the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.

The airline operators blamed the sudden closure of runways as the cause of flight delays and cancellation which occurs at the airports.

Investors King reports that the main reason for the abrupt closure is the VIP movement which includes the President, Vice president and top government officials’ flights which most times are not publicly declared for security sake.

Pilots have lamented that they are most times not informed of the duration of the closures because the airlines get the notice unexpectedly which in turn affects other flight schedules.

They said what pisses them is the frequency of the runway closure which could occur twice in a day or more.

The Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) was accused of not informing air traffic controllers of the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency, NAMA who usually alert pilots on duty without sending an official Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) through the Aeronautical Information Service (AIS) to the large airline community.

Airline operators also highlighted the cost implication of frequent closure of the runways saying it consumes large quantity of fuel while waiting for the VIP’s movement whether on the ground or in the air.

In his explanation, a FAAN official said that the agency does not really shut the runway but basically delays other flights for the VIP planes to takeoff or land.

He said, “I don’t think they declare the airport closed. They just delay some flights until the passage of the VIP. The other day we were about to take off when our pilot told us there was VIP movement and we waited. We actually waited for long; over 30 minutes at the holding point before our flight took off. Yes, the problem is that it causes delays for travellers.  Even when that aircraft is airborne it has to wait. They will inform the pilots but no precision because you are not supposed to know the details about the movement for security reasons. So they don’t issue official NOTAM but the controllers will do radio communication.”

Speaking on the issue, the Chief Operating Officer of Green Africa, Obi Mbanuzuo stated that the closure occurs daily because of the consistency of the VIPs’ travels.

He spoke on the high cost that accompanies each delay, “ordinarily the aircraft frequently used in Nigeria, the Boeing 737 Classic aircraft could consume about five tons (about 6, 250 litres) of fuel flying from Lagos to Abuja and additional 30 minutes fuel would be added to it, which is about 1.5 tons in case the airport is sterilized (closed for VIP movement). Then there would be additional fuel for alternative airport in case of emergency. That is, more fuel is added in case a situation arises that the aircraft has to leave for an alternative airport if there is an emergency. 

“Every airline chooses its alternative airport. Flying from Lagos to Abuja an airline could choose Ilorin as an alternative airport or it could choose Port Harcourt. So the aircraft would carry additional fuel in case there is a need to go to the alternative airport. So, it is five tons from Lagos to Abuja, 1.5 tons for diversion in case there is VIP movement, which brings the volume to 6.5 tons; then another five tons for the alternative airport, which in total brings it to 11.5 tons (14, 500 litres).

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EU to Raise Schengen Visa Fees, African Nationals Hit Hardest

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Starting Tuesday, African nationals seeking entry to the European Union will face increased visa fees as the EU raises the cost of Schengen visa applications from €80 to €90.

This 12.5% hike announced by the EU Commission adds to the financial burden for many applicants, particularly from African countries that already face high rejection rates and significant expenses.

According to recent Schengen visa statistics, African nationals received 704,000 negative responses to their visa applications in 2023.

This high rate of rejections resulted in approximately €56.3 million spent on non-refundable visa fees.

The report highlights that these expenses, referred to as ‘reverse remittances,’ represent a substantial financial outflow from African countries to the EU, benefiting no one but the recipient nations.

The impact of these costs is disproportionately felt by African applicants, who accounted for 43.1% of the total amount generated by rejected applications in 2023.

Among the hardest-hit were nationals from Algeria and Morocco. Algerians, who filed the second-highest number of applications, saw 42.3% of their 289,000 requests denied.

Moroccan nationals faced an even higher rejection rate, with 62% of their 437,000 applications being turned down, leading to €10.9 million spent on unsuccessful visa bids.

Overall, the EU earned €3.4 million from rejected Schengen visa applications submitted by Nigerian citizens alone, illustrating the significant financial burden placed on individual applicants.

The high rejection rates for African and Asian countries, which together bear 90% of all visa-related expenses, exacerbate the economic challenges faced by applicants from these regions.

The recent study by EU Observer underscores the growing trend of increased expenses and rejection rates.

Schengen visa rejections generated €130 million in 2023, up from €105 million the previous year, indicating a rise in both visa costs and the financial impact on applicants.

Marta Foresti, founder of the LAGO Collective, commented on the broader implications of these financial dynamics.

“Visa inequality has very tangible consequences and the world’s poorest pay the price. You can think of the costs of rejected visas as ‘reverse remittances’, money flowing from poor to rich countries. We never hear about these costs when discussing aid or migration; it is time to change that,” she said.

As the EU implements the new visa fee structure, the financial strain on African nationals is set to intensify. With some of the lowest wages globally, many Africans will find the increased costs even more challenging to bear.

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UAE to Lift Visa Ban on Nigerians, Says Aviation Minister Festus Keyamo

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The longstanding visa face-off between Nigeria and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is set to end, according to Nigeria’s Minister of Aviation and Aerospace Development, Festus Keyamo.

The announcement came during a welcome dinner for delegates attending the International Air Transport Association (IATA) 80th Annual General Meeting and World Air Transport Summit in Dubai.

In his address on Monday, Keyamo disclosed that the diplomatic disputes that led to the UAE imposing a visa ban on Nigerians have been resolved.

“The issue of visa has been resolved, just the announcement remaining. They want to dot the I’s and cross the T’s. The announcement will be in a couple of weeks,” he stated.

The visa ban, which severely restricted travel for Nigerians to the UAE, particularly to popular destinations like Dubai, was initially imposed due to a series of diplomatic disagreements.

However, recent efforts spearheaded by President Bola Tinubu, who intervened in August 2023, have paved the way for a resolution. This intervention also addressed the related face-off with Emirates Airlines, which had suspended its flights to Nigeria.

The significance of the resolution was underscored by the warm reception Keyamo received at the summit.

Accompanied by the ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed Al Maktoum, Keyamo’s entrance was met with applause from over 2,000 delegates.

This reception, Keyamo noted, is a testament to the valued relationship between Nigeria and the UAE.

In a conversation with journalists on the sidelines of the event, Keyamo explained the importance of restoring and maintaining strong ties with the UAE.

“The UAE is considered a very important partner to Nigeria. Nigerians have a lot of stakes here in the UAE with significant investments. We are making it a priority to ensure that the travel route is reopened and that the visa application process is made easier for Nigerians,” he said.

Keyamo also highlighted the trust and value the UAE places on its relationship with Nigeria.

“I was on the same ride with the ruler of Dubai, the Minister, and the head of Emirates Group, along with other top officials. This level of engagement shows how much they value Nigeria and how they want to rebuild this relationship,” he added.

The lifting of the visa ban is expected to have a substantial positive impact on both nations. It will not only facilitate travel for Nigerians seeking to visit or invest in the UAE but also strengthen economic and diplomatic ties between the two countries.

As the final details are being fine-tuned, Nigerians eagerly await the formal announcement. The resolution marks a significant diplomatic achievement and opens the door for renewed cooperation and mutual benefit.

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Kenya Airways Set to Boost Presence in Nigeria with Plans for Abuja Hub

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Kenya Airways, the East African aviation giant, is gearing up to significantly expand its footprint in Nigeria by establishing a new operational hub in Abuja, as part of its broader strategy to enhance connectivity across the African continent.

In an exclusive interview with journalists at the airline’s office in Lagos, Julius Thiarus, the Customers Commercial Manager of Kenya Airways, revealed the company’s ambitious plans.

Thiarus emphasized the importance of Nigeria as a key market for Africa and highlighted Kenya Airways’ commitment to establishing its presence in major cities across the continent.

“We want to be in every significant city in Africa. We want to fulfil that mandate by coming into Abuja, which is part of our strategy aligning with what we see as growth in travel,” Thiarus stated, underlining the airline’s strategic vision.

Kenya Airways aims to capitalize on the burgeoning market size and economic significance of Nigeria by bolstering its operations in Abuja. Thiarus highlighted the importance of cargo transportation for the airline, emphasizing the need to reduce reliance on external sources for essential supplies to Africa.

To this end, Kenya Airways recently added two cargo freighters to its fleet, doubling its capacity to meet the growing demand for cargo services across the continent.

Addressing the issue of low passenger traffic from Nigeria to Kenya, Thiarus outlined plans to increase the airline’s daily frequencies to Lagos from one flight per day to two flights.

He also revealed that Kenya Airways is strongly considering establishing a new route to Abuja, with plans to commence operations next year.

“We are looking at Abuja and probably sometime next year to establish that flight to Kenya and beyond Africa,” Thiarus remarked, highlighting the airline’s commitment to enhancing connectivity between Nigeria and other African countries.

Despite Nigeria’s vast population and potential as a tourism market, Thiarus acknowledged that the current number of Nigerian visitors to Kenya is relatively low.

He stressed the importance of collaborative efforts between airlines, tourism boards, and government agencies to promote travel and tourism between Nigeria and Kenya.

“Nigeria is important for Africa, and Africa will never prosper if Nigeria is not prosperous,” Thiarus emphasized, underscoring the significance of Nigeria’s economic growth for the overall development of the continent.

Kenya Airways’ ambitious plans to establish a hub in Abuja signal a new chapter in the airline’s expansion strategy, aiming to strengthen its presence in Nigeria and enhance connectivity across Africa.

As the aviation industry continues to evolve, Kenya Airways remains poised to play a pivotal role in shaping the future of air travel on the African continent.

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