Domestic Airlines Yet to Meet Requirements for Flight Resumption

Muhtar Usman
Director General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Captain Muhtar Usman

Chinedu Eze

There are strong indications that the June 21, 2020 date slated for resumption of domestic flights may not be feasible as none of the local carriers has met the conditions given to them by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA).

Also the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) it was gathered, was yet to meet the requirements as stipulated by NCAA to get the airports ready for flight operations.

This was disclosed by the NCAA during a web meeting with industry stakeholders recently.

The checklist includes airworthiness of operational aircraft, currency of airline flight crew, readiness of the airlines to abide by COVID-19 preventive protocols, essential preventive gears and training of airline personnel on handling of passengers to protect them and other conditions.

THISDAY learnt that almost all the airlines that are interested in resuming flight operations have submitted their documentation to the regulatory authority and some of them have met some of the condition, but NCAA was yet to get back to the airlines.

An official of NCAA told THISDAY that the agency has been working with the airlines and FAAN, prompting them to strive and meet the checklist.

“If they don’t meet the given date for resumption we may shift it because the date is not sacrosanct; although one or two of the airlines might be ready before then and anyone that is ready we work with.

“FAAN has not met the checklist. We are looking at improvement of airport facilities and the Presidential Task Force on COVID 19 is working with us and monitoring what we are doing,” the NCAA official said.

The Director of Flight Operations, Air Peace, Captain Victor Egonu, told THISDAY that airlines might not be the cause of the delays because FAAN wasn’t ready with the airports.

He said Air Peace submitted all the requirements on May 22 and had been waiting for feedback from NCAA, noting that it is when the airline gets feedback from the regulatory authority it would then know the next action to take.

“We are yet to get feedback from NCAA but our understanding is that even the airports are yet to meet the requirements. The airport authority staff and Port Health are yet to procure Personal Protection Equipment (PPE).

“I think that will also cause the delay. Recently Air Peace procured equipment from China; it was not flown, it was shipped and it was delivered about three weeks ago. We expect that the agencies could have done the same since commercial flights stopped on March 23, 2020

“So, to say the airlines are yet to meet the requirements may not be the correct representation because the airports are not also ready.

“We have submitted everything, including procedures. We are in the dark now because we don’t know whether our application has been accepted. I am also aware that they are very busy, to be fair to them at NCAA, but the ball is in the court of the authorities,” Captain Egonu said.

He urged government to open the airspace for some kind of flight activities because the country is losing a lot with the closure of the airspace, observing that many people have died not due to coronavirus but because they could not travel overseas to receive proper medical attention.

On the resumption of flight operations, the CEO of Aero Contractors, Captain Ado Sanusi told THISDAY that the June 21 date might not be feasible because there is still interstate lockdown and for flight operations to take place, there should be interstate movement as flights move from one state to another.

He said the interstate lockdown may still persist because state governors are worried because of the spike in the number of coronavirus cases, adding that as long as there is not interstate movement, it won’t make any sense resuming flight service.

Sanusi also suggested that interstate lockdown should be lifted at least a week or few days before flight operation would resume.