South African Airways (SAA) will not be flying to Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, during six weeks of scheduled repairs to the international airport’s runway starting on 8 March this year.
A source at SAA said the decision to suspend flights to Abuja altogether, despite a proposal by Nigerian authorities to divert flights to the northern city of Kaduna, was a “strategic policy issue.”
“In reaching the decision, SAA took into account that one of its planes was damaged in the process of landing at Abuja airport in August,” the source said. “Moreover, diverting flights to Kaduna is not a practical option given that our passengers would then have to endure a journey of about 250 kilometres (155 miles) on the road to get to Abuja.”
Industry sources said British Airways, KLM and Air France had also opted out of diverting their flights to Kaduna city amid fears that the three-and-a-half-hour ride on a road notorious for accidents and kidnappings, would be a dangerous gamble on passenger safety.
A source in Nigeria said the runway at Abuja’s Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport is now in a shocking state of disrepair after years of neglect by authorities.
“It beggars belief that such a strategic airport to Nigeria’s international connections was neglected for so long and to the extent that potholes on the runway became a danger to any airliner using the airport,” the source said.