Aviation restart plan: Stakeholders discuss palliative, ‘middle-seat’ campaign, ticket validity, others

Sen. Hadi Sirika, Aviation Minister


Posted by Sade Williams



Aviation stakeholders, led by the Minister, Hadi Sirika, on Tuesday, discussed how the industry would restart operations after about three months of lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic.


While focusing on the topic, ‘Status Of Industry Restart’, during a Webinar meeting, Sirika in his remark while addressing close to 300 players ranging from airlines, ground handlers, airport operators and others said: ‘The whole purpose of this exercise is to get it right. It is our own style to come to you and marry your ideas and suggestions with ours for the betterment of our industry.”


On the much-discussed palliative for the industry, Sirika said the Federal government is considering palliative for aviation sector in the country.


His words: “Palliative is being considered and it is for the whole industry. There will be a template and it would be fair to everyone in the industry.”


He further assured stakeholders that their input will be implemented by the government. He commented: “Nothing will go to the government unless it is something that is collectively agreed upon.”


In a follow-up comments by Captain. Nuhu, the Director General, Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority  (NCAA), said: “We need to work together to achieve common goal as he called on more focus on aviation security.


Also speaking, Engr. Godwin Balang, the General Manager in charge of Airline Operators’ Certificate and Surveillance said, ‘we have 11 recommendations and we have reviewed the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO)’s recommendations. The guideline is going to reflect our last meeting with airlines.


“On recovery plan, 20 aviation stakeholders have submitted their restart plan so far. We have received from FAAN, plan on Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano; Port Harcourt International Airport, Port Harcourt; Sam Mbakwe Airport while that of Murtala Muhammed Airport Lagos and Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja came later.”


According to Engr. Ita Awak, Director, Airworthiness Standards, six of the airlines have crossed the mark from the point of view of airworthiness.


He said: We have asked all the airlines that they should use only reagents that are approved by the Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM) of their different aircraft types, to disinfect their machines.”


Also speaking, Dr. Harold Demuren, a former Director-General of NCAA suggested a simulation before the real opening of the airports to passenger traffic.


“We need to assure passengers that it is safe to fly. A simulation, two days before the opening of the airports is encouraged.”


His stance was also backed by Mr. Chris Aligbe, the chief executive officer of Belujane Konsult and he further emphasized that the whole exercise is for the passengers and airport users.


The National Coordinator of the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19, Dr. Sanni Aliyu in his submission said the mandate of the task force is to protect public health.

On the opening of the airspace, he said: “We are keen to see aviation sector resume, making sure that airports open in a safe manner.


He warned stakeholders to be wary of fake Covid-19 entrepreneurs as he assures the industry that ‘PTF will welcome the sector’s submission’ as it concerns the reopening of the industry.


The immediate past National President of the National Association of Nigerian Travel Agents (NANTA), Mr. Bernard Bankole on measures he thought should be considered said, “Airlines should extend validity of tickets, and it will go a long way.”


He also added that porters and personnel at the carousel and lavatories area should be looked into.


Bankole corroborated the stance of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) on the discouragement of non-travelling persons inside the terminal.


In his reaction to Mr. Bankole submission, Engr. Tayib  Odunowo, the Director of Aerodrome and Airspace Standards (DAAS) at NCAA said porters at the airports would not be allowed any longer, saying ‘You will not find them again’.


On the financial health of the airlines in the country, Grp Capt. (Rtd.) Edem Oyo-Ita Director, Air Transport Regulation for NCAA said only three airlines have submitted their financial health while waiting for others.


On airline insurance, Oyo-Ita said the directorate is working on the confirmation of the status of the airlines’ insurance.


Dr. Samson Fatokun, Area Manager, West Africa of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) while relaying the global airlines’ association stance on the resumption of aviation activities said: ‘We support the operationalization of the ICAO’ CART by Nigeria. He warns that airlines will not breakeven with proposed 70% load factor. HEPA filter sanitises air in the cabin of aircraft.


“Air transport in Nigeria is distressed with the shutting down of operations. This industry needs financial support in which way it can come. We are appealing again to the government to support the industry. We are also ready to support in training.”


Barr. Allen Onyema, the Air Peace Chairman, in support of IATA concerning support for the industry said the intention of the palliative should be on jobs retention.


He said the current government preaches on job creation and the palliative should be given with workers in mind.

Also speaking, Captain Edward Boyo, the Managing Director of Overland Airways while throwing his weight in support for palliative said Nigeria should not be different as ‘every country is support the industry.’


As regards to the ‘Middle Seats’ campaign in some quarters, Onyema said ‘it will kill the airlines in Nigeria.’


He reasoned that purchasing power of average Nigerian is low, giving a scenario where the airlines will need to transfer the fares on the middle seats on passenger tickets.


“Can Nigerians afford N70, 000 worth of ticket on less than one hour flight?’, he asked.


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