Christopher Isiguzo in Enugu
Business activities were temporarily halted at the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu on Saturday as the latest passenger plane Boeing 787, 900 series belonging to Ethiopian Airlines landed at the airport.
Travellers at the airport had expressed delight at the berthing of the aircraft, said to be less than two months old.
The 350-passenger capacity aircraft flown by Captain Mulatu Abebe from Addis Ababa landed at the Enugu airport at about 11.30 am amid cheers from residents who gathered to welcome the flight. It is the first time the two months old plane was landing on Nigerian soil.
Enugu State governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, who was full of smiles while receiving crew members and passengers that boarded the aircraft, said his administration would continue to partner the airline to make their stay conducive in the state.
He stated that the target of the government was to ensure that more international flights come into the state, stressing that since the start of the operation of the airline in Enugu, more passengers are trooping to travel through the state.
“I want to place it on record that we are not resting to ensure that bigger aircrafts operate the international route of this airport. It will increase the flow of passengers because Enugu is safe and secured. Today is a wonderful day, the first time such a plane is landing in Enugu state and capital of the south-east. Enugu state government is happy that in this administration such a thing is happening.
“This is not the target, this is a small plane compared to what we are expecting to be landing in this airport. We expect bigger plans and more aircrafts to be landing. I know Ethiopian will say it is a competition, but no matter the number of plane landing here, we still have enough passengers because a lot of people want to travel from Enugu. It is more convenience for us instead of going through Abuja or Lagos”, Ugwuanyi, who was represented at the occasion by his Special Adviser, Special Duties, Uwakwe Azikwe said.
On his own, Anglican Bishop of Enugu Diocese, Rev Emmanuel Chukwuma, said the inaugural flight was a welcome development, stressing that the airline has reduced the sufferings of southeast travelers since their operation in the state.
He however appealed to the federal government to speed up action for the completion of the international wing of the airport as well as rehabilitation of the local wing.
Chukwuma also urged southeast and south-south businessmen to use the opportunity provided by the latest aircraft to boost their businesses and warned against acts that could compromise security and integrity of the airport.
He prayed God to continue to grant safe trip on travelers of Enugu route. Ethiopian Airline’s Traffic and Sales Manager, Ato Biniam Addisu said the airline operates in more than 100 destinations all over the world, adding that it presently has several aircrafts and considers Nigeria as its second largest market.