By Ayoola Olaitan
There are indications that international flights may resume before October this year, however, according to the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika there is no specific date yet.
Sirika gave an update on the likely date for the resumption of international flight via his twitter handle, @hadisirika yesterday.
The tweet read: “International flight resumption date is not October. NAMA just issued a routine 90 days’ Notice to Airmen (NOTAM). In liaison with Health, Foreign Affairs, and PTF COVID-19, we will announce the agreed date, regardless of the ban by Europe, UAE, etc. Maybe earlier than October.”
Recall that Nigeria placed travel ban on flights operations in the country airspace on March 21 after the country’s coronavirus cases increased from 12 to 22. The airport closure was meant to last one month but as cases grew in the nation and globally, the date of resumption got postponed.
The Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport, Abuja, and Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, were the first airports to be shut as measures to stem the spread of COVID-19, while the country’s civil aviation regulator, NCAA, closed Enugu, Kano and Port Harcourt airports afterwards.
However, there are indications that evacuation flights are scheduled till August, this means international flights might be shut for that long period, even as evacuation flights continues.
Speaking on this issue, the Director General of Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Capt. Musa Nuhu, argued that the time is not right to resume international operations, even as he stated that the decision was beyond the agency.
The NCAA boss, however, assured that the Federal Government had started working on public health protocols for international flights to begin. He further explained that the agency generated 85 percent of its revenue from international flights.
Aviation stakeholder, the President of the National Association of Nigerian Travel Agencies (NANTA), Susan Akporiaye, expressed dissatisfaction about the continous ban on international flights as she pointed out the rapid increase in evacuation flights recently.
According to her, “before, I raised issue on the chartered flights and that has reduced but the evacuation flights have taken over and we have a situation where evacuation is done two to three times every week.”
“Most airlines are having evacuation flight and yet we say the industry isn’t ready or can’t meet the protocols for international flights to resume. The evacuation flights must be doing something right, if we consider the protocols they are using because out there our counterparts are open and waiting for Nigeria to open the airports for international flights”.
Akporiaye argued that the government should consider opening of the international flights not everyday but maybe three times in a week as airlines are ready and travel agencies have all requirements are in order and they will make sure passengers meet up with the requirements.
Meanwhile, domestic flights operations resumed on July 8th after shutting down since March 30th.