The need for government to come up with implementable policies to attract investors, unbundle the potential of airports in the country was highlighted at the recently concluded 6th Airport Business Summit and Expo (ABSE) held recently in Lagos.
Participants in their various contributions identified lasting solutions to air transport response to projected population explosion and urban shift; ways of improving airport business environment; how to address the issues of criminal facilitation within the airport and also matters concerning consumer rights protection.
The ABSE is held annually to further share thoughts and information on current challenges in the airport sub-sector of the aviation industry.
This year, the 2-day summit held recently at Radisson Blu, Ikeja GRA in Lagos is aimed at promoting development of air transport services from the airport perspective with the theme: “Airport Economies: Consolidating of Air Transport Services”.
In a report of the Airport Business Improvement Workshop (ABIW) issued at the weekend by the summit Director, Mr. Fortune Idu of FCI International Consult, delegates who participated at the summit resolved that airport development around the country is essential to address the population growth and manage urban shift.
Stating that these airports can be considered as catalyst to other economic generation activities and very essential in development chain, the stakeholders averred that availability of reliable air connection will guarantee continues movement of people and services and then reduce tendencies of permanent migration to already congested cities.
They identified poor baggage handling systems, poor cooling systems, uncontrolled movements at the airports, lack of capacity to control touting and crowding at the airports, lack of infrastructure network, inadequate equipment and facilities, lack of airlines co-operation with the airport regulators and operators, passenger harassment, lack of logistics facilities at the airports, lack of investors interests in our airports and lack of funding as major airport operation challenges that hinder Nigeria airports from playing their vital roles.
Others, according to the ABIW report are: inability of stakeholders to formulate right strategy to move the aviation sector forward. low passenger traffic, lack of co-ordination among sister agencies at the airports, lack of adequate aircraft maintenance hangers, lack of well trained work force, poor time management and poor airport management services.
In their recommendation, the delegates are of the view that more publicity, more stakeholders’ involvement, training and man power development, strong political will to back up these policies, plans for transit passengers should be in place, adding that easy connectivity of all the travel routes, FAAN autonomy, adequate funding amongst others could make a difference.
In terms of airport business improvement, the delegates declared that airport business growth is relatively slow and Nigeria airports business environment deserves far more than what is obtainable now.
They identified challenges such as business climate in Nigeria being harsh for businesses to thrive and this includes the airports; that there are multiple charges by FAAN which complicate the business activities of concessionaires; also service providers lack quality customer service relationship, poor planning, policy summersault, bureaucracy are some of the issues that hinder development; lack of transparency in airport management, poor communication mechanism between landlord and concessionaires and multiple charges by airport authorities amongst others as factor militating against airport business improvement.
In their recommendation, they stated that “the business environment in Nigeria especially the airports should be made conducive enough for businesses to thrive. Good reward system as incentives to encourage hard work on the part of the operators of the airports”.
“Well-tailored policy framework that would encourage investment opportunities within airport business environment. State of the art infrastructure should be made available. Proper planning to cater for short, medium and long term plans and implementation, continuity in government policies and provision of security amongst others”.
In terms of crime free facilitation, delegates identified, that crimes around the airport are increasing in form of drug planting, human trafficking, aircraft hijacking, incursion into the airside by animals or humans, stowaway, touting, extortion, theft and hawking
They further advised that planning, policy, programmes and projects that would checkmate these criminal acts should be put in place while CCTV and scanning machines should be installed around the airports.
To them, regular and proper patrol of both airside and landside should be adopted just as they advised that there is urgent need for perimeter fencing of all aerodromes to check incursion menace.
Other solutions they proffered include: training and retraining of personnel to build capacity; creating awareness for the general public to know the dangers inherent in engaging in these criminal acts; capacity building and automation of entry and exit points at the airports is key to a safe and secure airport and that only qualified cargo handlers should be allowed to do ground handling.
In the areas of consumer protection, delegates pointed out that customer satisfaction is low at majority of the airports, stressing that passengers and other customers are not pleased and believe that the channel for redress is not clear.
Issues identified in this regard include: flight delays and cancellations, delay in refunds due to flight cancellations, poor handling of passenger luggage leading to damage and or loss of luggage, dirty rest rooms, touting and extortion prevalence, harassment by security personnel, poor cooling systems and uncomfortable airport environment, unfriendly staff and personnel and poorly managed information desk.
In their suggestions, the delegates advised that flight delays and cancellations should be minimized and when it is unavoidable compensation should be made.