After many postponements since the country’s airspace was closed for scheduled international services over six months ago to prevent the spread of COVID-19, Nigeria resumed international flight operations on Saturday. The flights kicked off at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, and Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos, with the maximum number of arriving passengers for each airport put at 1, 280.
At the Lagos airport, passengers in their numbers were seen wearing their facemasks and observing social distancing at the entrance gates of the terminals and inside the terminal building, as the first flight to arrive, Middle East Airlines, prepared to board outbound travellers. The Lebanon bound flight, the first commercial flight to take off from the airport since the shutdown, followed COVID-19 protocol rules in processing passengers.
Manager, South-West Airports, Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Victoria Shina-Aba, who spoke to journalists at the airport, said it had been six months and 13 days since MMIA was closed to international flights. Shina-Aba, however, disclosed that while the airport was on lockdown, it processed 192 evacuation or special flights and 1,404 cargo flights. She said the airport had come back to life, stressing that necessary measures have been put in place to restore confidence in travelling.
Shina-Aba explained that in line with COVID-19 protocols, departing passengers were no longer expected to come to the airport with many people, as non-travelling passengers could only stay at the drop off zone of the terminal.
She said, “We have been able to demarcate the gates. The first gate is for crew and staff only. The B and C gates are for passengers. We have another gate for elderly and special people. At each of these gates, we have water provided for passengers to wash their hands. We have bag-sanitising stations where passengers get their bags sanitized. Then the temperatures of the passengers are taken.
“At the passenger gate, we have infra-red cameras that can capture many people at the same time. If you try to access the place without facemasks, it will indicate that your facemask is not on. We have signs everywhere telling people what to do. The security will not allow passengers without facemasks in. We have sanitisers at the gates.
“If you have a temperature higher than the normal, the Port Health will take you to a place that have been provided just to sit down for a while and check you again after some minutes. If you are okay, you will be allowed to travel.”
The manager said FAAN had done social distance markings, saying people queue according to the markings and passengers and staff do not have direct contact. She assured that FAAN staff were always on stand-by to disinfect items touched regularly by passengers and boarding was done in batches.
Shna-Aba disclosed that the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 and Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) had developed protocols for passengers.
She said, “Passengers should have tested for COVID-19 at most 96 hours before arrival. Passengers are supposed to register with a provided portal and pay for another COVID-19 test seven days after arrival. They are to fill a form that will include their itinerary, country of departure, and other travel histories. This is also provided on the same portal.
“After this, they will get a barcode. At port health, they will check your temperature, the barcode and COVID-19 status. The barcode is for Port Health to monitor and ensure people still go back for the tests.”
The Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) explained flight schedule for airlines thus:
On Mondays, flights that will be operated at the Lagos airport include Turkish Airlines, Air Senegal, Virgin Atlantic, Qatar, AWA, Emirates, and British Airways (BA), while BA, Emirates, Ethiopian Airlines, Asky and Air Cote d’Ivoire will operate at Abuja airport.
Flights at the Lagos airport on Tuesdays include BA, Asky, Egypt Air, Ethiopian Airlines, and Air Cote d’Ivoire, while BA, Emirates, Ethiopian Airlines, AWA, and Turkish Airlines will operate from Abuja airport.
Delta, Emirates, Turkish, Air Senegal, Ethiopian Airlines, AWA, Kenya Airways, and MEA would operate at the Lagos airport on Wednesdays, while BA, Emirates, Ethiopian Airlines, Asky, Air Cote d’Ivoire and AWA will operate in Abuja.
For Thursdays, BA, Delta, Egypt Air, Emirates, Ethiopian Airline, Virgin, Qatar, and AWA will operate in the Lagos airport, while BA, Egypt Air, Emirates, AWA, Ethiopian Airlines, Turkish Airlines, and Air Cote d’Ivoire will operate in Abuja airport.
On Fridays, Air Senegal, Asky, Emirates, Turkish Airlines, AWA, Kenya Airways and MEA will operate from Lagos Airport while BA, Emirates, Ethiopian Airlines, AWA and Middle East Airlines will operate in Abuja airport.
On Saturdays, BA, Delta, Qatar, AWA, Kenya Airways, MEA and Air Cote d’Ivoire will operate from Lagos Airport while BA, Egypt Air, Emirates, Ethiopian Airlines, AWA, MEA and Turkish Airlines will operate from Abuja airport.
Delta, Air Senegal, Virgin Atlantic, Emirates, AWA, Kenya Airways and Turkish Airlines will operate from the Lagos airport on Sundays, while BA, Egypt Air, Emirates, Ethiopian Airlines, Asky and Air Cote d’Ivoire will operate from Abuja airport.