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Domestic flights can’t resume June 21

The Federal Government on Thursday said it was not feasible to open the airspace for commercial flights to begin operations again on June 21, 2020.

According to the government, it will be disastrous to allow domestic flights begin operations from June 21. It, however, noted that the airspace might be opened towards the end of the month.

The Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, disclosed this through the Director-General, Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, Musa Nuhu, at the briefing of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 in Abuja.

In his address at Thursday’s briefing, Nuhu said, “We never said aviation is going to start definitely on June 21.

“We are supposed to report back based on what we have. We have some work to do and as such June 21 is not a feasible date to resume domestic operations.

“The civil aviation authority, despite pressures coming from all quarters, will not approve the start of operations any day until we are sure and confirm that we are ready to start in a safe, secured, organised and efficient manner.”

He added, “To do otherwise will be disastrous for all of us. God forbid, if we have an incident, I believe the government will come hard on us and it is going to be counter-productive and disastrous for the industry.

“We are not too far; we are close, but there is need for time so that we are positively and absolutely ready to start work.”

On when the airports would open, Nuhu said the NCAA was looking at the end of this month, adding that the agency would submit a report through the Federal Ministry of Aviation to the PTF for review.

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The Senate had also on Thursday cautioned the Federal Ministry of Aviation against unlocking the sector on Sunday, saying doing so could be suicidal.

The Chairman, Senate Committee on Aviation, Senator Smart Adeyemi, gave the caution after an emergency meeting with leaders of unions in the sector led by the National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers.

He said based on serious issues raised by stakeholders in the sector as regards safety and security during the meeting, the plan of unlocking the airspace should be postponed.

Speaking earlier in a webinar attended by aviation stakeholders, Nuhu had said the aviation authorities needed to clear an effective resumption date with the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19.

The National Coordinator of the PTF, Sani Aliyu, had on June 1 told the aviation industry to start developing protocols for domestic flights resumption from June 21.

Nuhu who was represented at the webinar by the Director of Consumer Protection Directorate of the NCAA, Alhaji Adamu Abdullahi, said the June 21 date was not sacrosanct.

He said, “The resumption date was not announced by FAAN or NCAA as you are aware. The resumption date was announced by PTF. What they said was that they were looking at a date. That date is not sacrosanct.

“The 21st is the date all of us are working towards and a decision has not been reached yet because we have to get back to PTF and convince them that look our airports are ready.”

He added, “Our airlines are ready. All other aspects of aviation are ready for a restart on 21st. Based on that, the PTF would now give a stand or a declaration. They meet every day.

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“We have to wait for further instructions from them to be guided. For now, we cannot say a straight yes or no.”

The PUNCH reported on Wednesday that 20 operators in the aviation sector, including FAAN, had submitted their operational restart plans to the NCAA.

So far, NCAA said, six airlines had passed the airworthiness mark set by the sector regulator to begin commercial operations.

Meanwhile, the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria has said it would subject passengers to pre-checks in front of terminals before take-off.

FAAN General manager, public affairs, Henrietta Yakubu, made this disclosure in a virtual meeting with stakeholders on Thursday.

The airport manager had advised passengers to arrive at airports at least three hours before flight time.

Yakubu said the essence of the notice was to factor in the duration of the temperature checks and luggage decontamination before a flight begins.

 “We factored that three hours before flight time would enable luggage decontamination, temperature checks, washing of hands and sanitizing to be done outside the terminal before you are allowed to go in,” she explained.

 She also encouraged passengers to check-in online to facilitate the process.

 Yakubu said if passengers checked in online, they would have more time to process their flight after sanitisation procedures.

Punch

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