Uche Usim, Abuja
The Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, FCT, on Monday resumed foreign flights with Ethiopian Airlines breaking the ice after the pandemic break.
The airliner, however, got off on a rough start as its aircraft almost aborted its flight following a disagreement with passengers over Nigeria’s COVID-19 protocols for arriving passengers.
Daily Sun learnt that the pilot operating the Addis-Ababa-Abuja service had announced minutes after taxiing that he had been ordered to disembark passengers whose repeat test payment had not been approved in Abuja.
The pilot explained to the passengers that Nigerian aviation authorities had warned airlines of dire consequences if passengers arrived in Abuja without presenting an acknowledgement receipt for payment.
The pilot, not wanting to incur the wrath of Nigerian authorities, quietly returned to the terminal for the 32 Nigerians passengers affected by the announcement to disembark.
The passengers, however, refused to exit the aircraft and vowed to abort the trip unless they were cleared to fly with other passengers.
It was only after the intervention of influential Nigerians who called relevant authorities that the pilot secured the nod to operate the flight following about an hour delay.
The affected passengers lamented that the COVID-19 payment portal server had been erratic since Monday morning.
The passengers said attempts to make online payments were unsuccessful as they were repeatedly debited without getting the required barcode which confirms payment for the repeat test.
By law, passengers flying into Nigeria are required to present a negative PCR test certificate before boarding and are also expected to pay about N43,000 for a repeat test in Abuja and Lagos.
Only two centres have been approved by Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) to carry out the repeat test for international travelers.
According to the NCDC rules, airlines that flout the directive stand the risk of paying a fine of $3,500 per passenger.