By Magnus Eze, Enugu
In what appears an Independence Day gift to passengers from the South East, Ethiopian Airlines will on October 1, 2021, resume international flights at the Akanu Ibiam International Airport Enugu.
Ethiopian, the lone passenger airliner on the route, recently opened its portal for bookings from this date.
Though a lucrative route, no other airline, local and international, will fly international routes from the airport in October.
Authorities suspended all flights and shut down the Akanu Ibiam International Airport on 24 August 2019, precisely six years after Ethiopian Airlines commenced direct flights to and from the airport in Enugu.
The August 24, 2013 event was the first international flights to be operated into the South East geopolitical zone of the country, barely two years after the airport in Enugu was accorded international status.
The shutdown followed public outcry over its dilapidated runway, but President Muhammadu Buhari approved N10 billion requested by Ministry of Aviation officials to rehabilitate the airport.
Rehabilitation of the runway was completed and the airport opened to domestic flights on August 30, 2020, amid cries that other aspects of the job were largely uncompleted.
Surprisingly, aviation authorities dragged their feet to open for international flights.
They promised and failed twice to authorise international flights despite pleas from passengers and leaders from the South East.
During this period, Daily Sun gathered that some important things required for international operations were not available.
They included two fire tender, servicing of the three screening machines; passenger buses, Hilux trucks, ambulance and Wi-Fi. Also required were at least 200 seats for the passengers’ waiting lounge, 500KVA generator and automatic body scanner as well as luggage scanner.
We could not confirm whether all these requirements had been met as at last Friday, though were told that the fire tender, Wi-Fi, waiting lounge and a few others were in place.
However, officials, relented last month when the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) gave the all-clear signal for flight resumption.
“Akanu Ibiam International Airport Enugu will resume international operations on the 18 August, 2021,” NCAA said in a statement.
Ethiopian followed quickly with a statement saying it will operate a thrice-weekly schedule at the airport from 15 September.”
Daily Sun learnt that the airlines decided on the October 1 resumption date to enable it tidy up its end and also get enough passengers for the route.