The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has said that June 21 date for the re-opening of five airports for domestic travel is not sacrosanct as flights cannot resume while interstate lockdown is still in place.
Speaking on Thursday, June 18, during a webinar organised by the League of Airports and Aviation Correspondents (LAAC) titled “Nigeria’s Aviation Industry: Changing Times, Changing Strategies”, the Director of Consumer Protection Directorate of the NCAA, Abdulahi Adamu, said the agency has to wait for final instructions from the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, so that it would be guided, but that it cannot give a definite answer on the date of resumption.
“On the issue of resumption, the July 21date was not set by NCAA; it was an- nounced by the PTF and they said the date is not sacrosanct. The 21st is the date that all of us are working towards and a decision hasn’t been reached yet because we have to get back to the PTF and convince them that our airports are ready and all other aspects are ready for restart and it is based on that, that the PTF can now give a declaration. We have to now wait for final instructions for them so that we would be guided but as of now, we cannot say a straight yes or a straight no on a resumption date.
“I am very certain that the PTF is aware that there is still interstate lockdown and there is no way that you will allow domestic air travel without removing that restriction. Of course, when you say that there can be domestic air travel, you are also saying that people can go from one state to another. It is something that the PTF is aware of and they will come out with a stance,” Adamu said.
On the preparedness of airlines, the chairman of Air Peace, Allen Onyema said domestic operators are opposed to the proposal from the Federal Government that social distancing should be maintained on board by leaving middle seats empty, saying that if that is done, the price of air tickets will triple and the cheapest would be over N100,000.
According to Onyema, apart from the constant disinfection of aircraft, passengers are not likely to be infected by the virus on board the aircraft but could do so around the airport or any other environment before even getting to boarding point.
“We have devised a way to board and reduce contact a lot by first calling for the right window seat and af- ter that is done and they are settled, we can call for the middle seats then. After that, we can call the left window seat, then you can call in the aisle seats at the right and then the aisle seat at the left. This will ensure interaction is minimal. If we leave the middle seats empty then the least ticket would be N100, 000, which will not be good for airline and passengers,” Onyema said.
The Director General of the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Captain Rabiu Yadudu, said even though airlines are opposed to the new protocol of allotment of slots where airlines would be given time to fly in order for the terminals not to be over crowded, he said the agency is constrained because it has minimal resources to cater to all the airlines and stakeholders.
“Slots can be very incon- veniencing for the airline but we are adapting to what will be a lesser inconvenience. When you don’t have slots, you might arrive and other flights arrive at the same time and the terminal would become crowded.