By Elizabeth Chukwuma
When Hadi Sserika, a Senator of Federal Republic of Nigeria and minister of Aviation , announced that the the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, FCT,and Murtala Muhammed International Airport, MMIA, Ikeja , airports, Lagos, would be opened for flight operations to resume on Wednesday July 8, 2020, not many people took him serious.This is because it was not the first time for the minister to have made such a promise which were never kept.
Companies which have business relationship with some of the airline may have been convinced that the ministerial l pronouncement has come to stay as it has the backing of President Muhammadu Buhari . The movement in the airline offices at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja and the MMIA, Ikeja, further convinced them that the domestic flight operations would commence as promised by the minister.
But not many people were surprised that the government could keep to its promise of the reopening the closed airport for domestic flight operations this time around. This is because of what is happening in other parts of the world where domestic flight operations had resumed. The government may have been reluctant to open the airports across the country for domestic flight operations in order to contain the spread of the Wuhan Town in Hebei province of the Asian country of China emerged coronavirus, popular, COVID 19 in the country.
The pandemic had forced the airline operators to ground their passenger Boeings 727 ,737 and other aircrafts in their fleet as the airports were closed by the CAA, on the orders of the Katsina state born Nigerian President in the wake of the outbreak of the disease in the country. The minister had said that Port Harcourt, Owerri and Maiduguri airports will reopen for Commercial flight operations on July 11, 2020 He disclosed that other airports across the country will join on July 15, 2020.
Business analysts believe that the return of the airline operators into business will save the nation’s aviation industry from total collapse. Until the government took the decision to order the airline operators to put back their aircrafts which had been out of service over the last four months on air, the industry was gasping for breath because of the billions of naira that had been lost lost r. Serika, the minister of Aviation painted a gory image of the situation when he said ‘’airlines in Nigeria were losing N17 billion each month since the nation’s airports were closed in the wake of the pandemic.
The airline operators may have put the bad times behind them as they were said to have begun preparations to resume operations next Wednesday. They were said to have perfected arrangement on how to recoup their lost revenue in the last four months by increasing fares in all routes.
This means that passengers planning to travel by air from Wednesday, July 8, 2020, when domestic flights would resume in Abuja and Lagos, the country two major cities, should be prepared to pay more to get to their destination.
Insiders told The Value News that the fares in all the routes have been doubled, meaning that only the rich and Companies which could afford it for their staff could now fly. The airline operators may have agreed to increase their fares in a bid to abide by the WHO, and the NCDC social distancing Protocols.
Take for instance, Dana airlines, was said to have increased its fares for Economy Discount Class Seat by 75 % , from N18,000.00 to N33,000.00 while the Business flexible was increased to N73,00. Air Peace, it was confirmed had jerked up fares on all the routes by 43 % while Arik increased its fares by modest by 29%. Azman Air, Aero Contractor and Ibom Air , which recently acquired its fourth Bombadier C900 , according to an insider are yet to load their flight schedule and fares for flight resumption.
In spite of the fact that the airline operators have not actually started operations , Musa Nuhu, Director General, NCAA, at a virtual meeting with the industry stakeholders last Thursday may have , sent jitters down the spine of the operators hen disclosed that eight commercial planes had been grounded, an indications that the planes might not resume operations alongside others on Wednesday, July 8, 2020. The Magazine learnt that the formal sanction to ground an additional 10 planes was issued to the affected airlines on Friday, July 3, 2020. This brings to 18, the total number of aircrafts that have been taken out of operations ahead of the resumption of domestic flight operations starting from Wednesday, July 8, 2020.
The planes were said to have been grounded by the NCAA, for’’ non-compliance to the COVID 19 safety protocols’’. The implication of the NCAA decision would be that passengers would be jostling for the few available functional plane Seat that were given clearance to operate.