Runway 18L/36R which has been without airfield lighting since commissioning in 2008 is said to have added in no small measure to the financial burden of the industry, mostly airlines who have continued to reiterate the harrows of operating sunrise to sunset in a major airport as against what is entailed in other climes.
Currently, airlines burn at least 10-20 minutes fuel each time they land on the international runway taxiing to the domestic, this cumulatively aggregates to billions.
Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) on July 7,2022 closed the Murtala Muhammed Airport Runway 18L/36R for 90 days to install approach lights, Runway Lights (Threshold and Centre, edge light and others so that runway 18L/36R returns to full 24/7 operations.
While inspecting works done this September Managing director of FAAN, Captain Rabiu Hamisu Yadudu placed completion at 90% stating that FAAN would meet its deadline.
With this, stakeholders and players are looking at the prospects of the 24/7 runway at the Lagos airports and what it can do for the industry in terms of aiding growth.
A pilot who spoke to NigerianFLIGHTDECK explained that the runway having lighting means that at night, when there is a closure of one runway due to an incident, airlines would not have to return to point of origin but can land on the second runway, which according to him can equally land a 777 aircraft.
Recall that in 2020, during the height of COVID-19, a Nigerian airline had a burst tire at the 18R/36L (International Runway) and the aircraft could not be removed till the next day, if not for lack of traffic due to the pandemic many airlines would have been diverted, and this runway having AFL now ensures that would not happen.
Chairman Nelike Capital Partners Limited, Dr. Alex Nwuba who shared his thoughts with our correspondent said the runway’s commencement of 24 hour services would reduce wait times in approach and landing, improve departures times both of which will reduce cost of operation, given the additional time in ground to 18R.
He said, ” It will improve operating hours with reduced taxi times. A 45 minute flight that saves 2p minutes on the ground is a huge cost savings. The numbers depend on the aircraft but at least 5% of operating cost x 365 days x no of airlines, will run into billions”
Recall at the recent League of Airports and Aviation Correspondents (LAAC) Conference, Ibom Air Chief Operating Officer, George Uriesi analysed that Nigerian airlines operate 1080 hours less than the bench marked industry standard because there are too many impediments in the operating environment that limit airline productivity including limited runway access across domestic networks.
He said that Nigerian airlines run three hours less daily when bench marked against industry standard, 90 hours less monthly and 1080 hours less annually.
Head of Research, Zenith Travels, Olumide Ohunayo said with this improvement however, everyone from airlines to air traffic control would benefit as airlines can now work on their schedules to maximize the utilization of these upgraded facilities.
He said,” It is going to relieve everyone, not only the airlines, even the Air Traffic Controllers, their stress would be reduced because they now have two runways and can easily depart and give start up to aircraft and clear them for landing easily and more frequently. That is for ATCs.
“Again, you expect there is going to be savings from fuel for the airline from what they used to taxi from the international runway and wait before they get to park, such fuel is now saved. Airlines may need to increase aircraft sizes due to the time their aircraft might be on ground
He continued,” Outside that, you also look at the possibility of airlines spending more time in redrafting their schedule to know how best to make use of the facility coming to them. It is a win-win for the airlines, win-win for the industry, it is long overdue and now that it has come let us enjoy the opulence that comes with it.”
Mr. Babatunde Adeniji, an aviation consultant also examined some benefits that would come with the facility and said load factors can also increase with flexibility to time, which brings about more flights.
He explained,” Airlines survive and thrive based on the ability to optimize three factors. Unit cost, Yield and load factors…as key facilities for aircraft movement the runway will increase capacity which will offer them the opportunity to operate more flights per time safely, efficiently and economically.
“This will impact Unit cost by driving it downwards just by reducing the times spent taxing, taking off and landing, and enable better use of their assets and people by offering more flights network wide. The load factor can increase as a result with the increased flexibility to time and operate more flights to meet passengers demand. Hopefully the yield will improve as they exploit these situations maximally …”