Following the federal government’s directive on the re-opening of the airports for scheduled domestic flights, Arik Air, Ibom Air and Air Peace resumed flight operations on the Lagos-Abuja routes yesterday.
However, Dana Air, which resumes flights today, said it would operate three daily flights from Lagos to Abuja and back while the date for the addition of Port Harcourt and Owerri will be announced later.
The Chief Operating Officer of Dana Air Obi Mbanuzuo, said the airline had worked round the clock with the civil aviation authority (NCAA) to achieve “safe resumption of flights”.
He assured: “We are introducing other initiatives soon in line with the present realities and the need to minimize contacts at the airport.
“We have disinfected all our aircraft, provided all our staff with the recommended Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), alcohol-based hand sanitisers have been made available at our check-in, boarding gates and on board the aircraft for guests and we have an optimized cleaning protocol in place as recommended by the World Health Organisation, (WHO),and the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA).
“We have also created a boarding, which will give our passengers some sense of safety on board our aircraft”, Mbanuzuo added.
Aero Contractors, the country’s oldest carrier, said it chose to resume flight service today after the official restart date in order to stagger flight schedules to ensure that airport facilities were not stretched beyond COVID-19 protocol guidelines.
The management of the carrier explained that contrary to some media reports that indicated the airline was denied approval to operate, it had received its approval from the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) and it would start operations on Thursday.
It stated: “Based on the protocol and NCAA regulation in cognizance of the new airport facilitation and COVID-19 protocols, we decided to restart our operation tomorrow in order to stagger the flight schedule.
“So, we are inviting our esteemed customers who have enjoyed our service over the years to fly with us from tomorrow,” it added.
Daily Trust’s on-the-spot assessment of flight resumption at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport Abuja, showed that there was strict enforcement of protocols as earlier announced by the Minister of Aviation, Sen. Hadi Sirika.
Our correspondent reports that travellers were scanty on the first day of flight operations as some of the passengers interviewed said they were travelling purely because of serious business meetings or engagements that cannot be postponed
Interestingly, passengers conducted themselves in an orderly manner and obeyed all safety protocols.
Sniffer dogs were also deployed to screen bags for contrabands and explosives ahead of the bags disinfection protocol.
A cross section of the passengers who spoke to our correspondent commended Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) for the efforts to keep the terminals safe for travellers amidst the ravaging COVID-19 pandemic.
Whilst at the airport, our correspondent saw Ark Air, Air Peace and Ibom Air flights depart the airport.
Toyin Adetunji, a passenger on an Air Peace flight to Lagos said that her experience was pleasing and commended the authorities for effective crowd control.
“Before now, we would have found this entire waiting lounge so jam packed and crowded. But the initiative not to have so many airlines fly about the same time has helped to minimise crowd. If we had a crowd, it could create an environment for COVID-19 spread.
“Secondly, the procedure is well organised. From the entry to the terminal, to check-in, the process is well organised. We have the gaps created and marked for each passenger to stand, and there were sniffer dogs for luggage”, she added.
Also commenting, Mr. Ahmed Abu, a Controller, with the Nigerian Correctional Service said he felt safe at the airport.
“We had to be here at least three hours before the scheduled time of the flight. We underwent strenuous protective measures to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 during the check-in processes. I really commend the authorities for the efforts done to protect lives at the airport. I feel very much safe because all the necessary protective measures have been put in place and we want all Nigerians to abide by rules and respect all the protective measures” he said.
Commenting on the first day of operations, the FAAN Managing Director, Capt. Rabiu Yaduda, said there was no hitch. He said the authority is still studying the compliance and will make further adjustments where necessary.
On the high cost of tickets he explained that: “The guidelines given to airlines will have some economic effect on them as a commercial business. It is profit making. If you are compelled to reduce your capacity, naturally there will be some issues in terms of revenues and what you can generate. It will affect their productivity. For them to remain safe and viable, there is need for adaptation and improvement on their part” Yaduda added.