Slow technology deployment derails sector’s gains
Lack of deployment of adequate technology is derailing the gains the aviation industry in Nigeria would have made.
Most of the technologies at the airports are either not performing optimally or are lacking or outdated, thereby leading to financial bleeding by airlines, airport operators and various service providers.
In most parts of the world, more advanced technologies are deployed to cut time wasted on passenger facilitation, aircraft turn-around flight operations, seamless air navigation and speed of doing business.
Consequently, the sector may have made a whooping loss of over N40 billion annually, which cuts across the airlines, the various aviation agencies, airports, service providers and others according to an aviation expert, who spoke to this newspaper on condition of anonymity.
As airports race to improve their technologies, many are currently implementing isolated solutions around intelligent airports, including Airport Operations Command Centers (AOCC), mobile-enabled passenger services, introducing “smart gates” and airport performance reporting tools.
While these solutions may improve specific processes and functions, they are not holistic enough. For example, the introduction of smart gates requires integration with other airport systems and analytics solutions to measure the improvements.
Managing Director of Aglow Support Services Limited, Mr. Tayo Ojuri, noted that the loss could be more saying a lot of things such as time value of the passengers lost, time of traffic, check-in process and others could make the loss colossal.
He noted that the airlines are already on reservation platforms such as Amadeus, Galilieo and Sabre, adding that the greatest challenge is more pronounced within the domestic aviation sub sector.
He said the Murtala Muhammed Airport 2 (MMA2) has developed advanced Common Users passenger processing technology. which he said enhances speed to passenger processing and aiding security with the use of bar coded electronic boarding passes.
He equally noted that passengers manifest has now been computerised unlike manual processes of the past, adding that they are now automated.
Ojuri equally spoke of the near completion of Performance Based Navigation (PBN) in many of the airports across the country, stressing that when this is completed, the high navigational facility would help pilots to cut down on fuel and other costs, stressing that this would also eliminate problems encountered by airlines during harmattan.
“I cannot categorically tell you what Nigeria is losing annually but lack of full deployment of technology in the aviation sector l he said. “I am sure it will be enormous. We need to look at time value of the passengers, time of traffic, and capacity of the airline among others.
“The use of PBN and other advanced technology helps during harmattan and helps airlines to cut running costs. We know that government cannot provide all of these; the reason I am one of the proponent of concession in the aviation industry.”
The Federal Government recently said that Nigeria is at the verge of completing PBN in 23 airports across the country.
Ojuri noted that airports operations are complex, sensitive and different from all the other businesses, adding that as the gateway to communities across the world, airports are tasked with the difficult job of providing the first impression for visitors.
He reiterated that a business that operates around-the-clock must be resilient to cater to evolving customer demands while remaining profitable.
Although, Nigeria is two years behind the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) requirements for states to ensure full implementation of PBN, the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) is said to be leaving no stone in reaching the implementation stage.
PBN is the technology in air traffic services where aircraft receive advisory directives from satellite-based equipment instead of ground based equipment. Traditional navigation techniques for aviation were developed using ground-based navigation aids.
There are various types of navigation facilities such as Non Directional Beacon (NDB), which is a radio transmitter at a known location, which an aircraft can track to/from. VHF Omnidirectional Range (VOR) provides more accurate directional navigation information. Distance Measuring Equipment (DME) that provides distance information to/from the facility. Instrument Landing System (ILS) provides lateral and vertical guidance to aircraft approaching to land.
These facilities had to be located in positions where they were accessible for maintenance and in the most optimum position for its navigation purpose.
As reliance on air traffic continues to grow in the global economy, not a few believe that airports must become more adaptive, entrepreneurial and proactive.
With most airports now poised as “multi-nodal” transportation hubs for people, information and trade, the challenge is to make systems and processes more digitally aware, interconnected, intelligent and simple to access for all stakeholders.