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A 6-month Automation Extension refusal by SITA leads to the Disruption of Airport Services

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THE reported downtime in the check-in system of airports in Nigeria particularly the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos, and the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport (NAIA), Abuja may be a result of the expiration of a ten year deal between the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and Societe International Telecommunication Aeronautiques (SITA).

Due to the expiration of the contract for the automation of the international airports in Nigeria on May 2, 2021, international air travel in the country is experiencing major challenges with manual check-in slowing down the system and causing delays as the company in charge of automation did not wish to negotiate further.

TOURTELEGRAPH has learned that SITA’s contract with FAAN was extended by six months but according to a source, the Geneva-based agency gave FAAN only two (2) months that have since expired, causing the current turmoil at the ports.

According to the source, SITA was aware that their contract for Lagos and Abuja airports was ending, but did not participate in its renewal with proper documentation for subsequent procurement.

Sources said, “SITA is fully aware that their 10-year contract covering Lagos and Abuja airports alone expired and they failed to participate with documentation in the subsequent procurement, another company RESA did with a better offer covering all five (5) major airports… ”

SITA declined to sign the six months contract extension that FAAN requested in order to avoid service disruption during the transition… they signed for only 2 months, paving the way for the disruption they clearly planned for, according to the source.

Additionally, TOURTELEGRAPH learned from another reliable source that SITA wrote in March to suspend check-in services, offering an extension of two months, while requiring full payment of outstanding invoices by 30 May 2021.

FAAN in her first response stated the dates when the processing of the payment could be completed which was rejected by SITA. A follow-up letter was also dispatched to SITA promising to fast-track the processing further with only a 5-day difference from the proposed date by SITA but was again rejected and their threat to suspend services effected.

The source who explained the situation however said that when Federal Government announced Arlington as the preferred company for its N10billion automation process, this became a raison d etre why SITA appears to be frustrating the process, as he feels the automation company exited the deal in bad faith.

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He also stressed that contrary to rumours flying about RESA that the company was renowned and is a strategic partner of the International Airline Transport Association (IATA) and a leader in the airport information system which currently equips over 200 airports with automated and integrated software solutions targeting the operational needs of the airport industry

According to the source, FAAN has engaged RESA and is working to expedite action in the deployment of their solution to ensure services are restored promptly at the airports but needed the transition period to actually get RESA started up and avoid the current situation.

In March 2021, FAAN had in a letter signed by General Manager, ICT, FAAN, Charles Nwachi to all station managers in Lagos, Abuja, Kano, Port-Harcourt, titled, “Smart App Project Implementation in Abuja, Port-Harcourt, Lagos and Abuja” tried to get airlines to join the smart app project implementation.

The letter dated March 30th, 2021 in a bid to forestall the current situation explained, “We wish to bring to your notice that with effect from May 1, 2021, the current common use passenger processing system being managed by SITA at the Abuja and Lagos airport shall cease to be operational.

“It is therefore imperative that all international airlines integrate with the Arlington/ICT SmartApp solution immediately as agree in our last meeting of December 11, 2020, with FAAN top management in order to avoid service disruption”.

“Once again, the Arlington/ICTS SmartApp solution can be linked to any airline’s DCS directly through WBS and is a complete check-in system with support for various airline print configurations for both boarding pass and baggage tags. As this connection is direct to host, integration with airlines is also fast and seamlessly”.

Nwachi further disclosed that the Arlington/ICTS Smart App integration is free as FAAN has paid for all associated costs and the introduction of the SmartApp solution will not attract extra charges beyond the one in existence.

“You may wish to note that the Arlington /ICT SmartApp solution will not attract extra charges beyond the ones in existence”.

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