*Passengers lament payment of N42,500 for Covid-19 test
By Kasim Sumaina
Ethiopian Airline, ET911, conveying 118 passengers on Monday touched down at the runway of Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja at 1:35pm local time following the resumption of international commercial flights, five months after Covid-19 lockdown.
The flight from Addis Ababa received a ceremonial welcome by fire service and the Civil defence corps.
However, passengers lamented the high cost of COVID-19 test which delayed the initial arrival time of the aircraft.
Passengers were expected to pay N42, 500 for Covid-19 test which they must conduct seven days after returning into the country, a situation most of the passengers frowned at.
However, many of the passengers applauded the COVID-19 protocol put in place at the airport, but urged FAAN to make the new system less stressful for passengers
A passenger who arrived from the United Kingdom (UK) Joe Ogwu frowned at the additional payment, noting that in the UK Covid-19 is done free of charge but, “in Nigeria one has to pay, that is not good enough.”
According to him, “The federal government portal for uploading Covid-19 test result was a horrible experience. After traveling from London Heathrow to Addis Ababa, the Nigerian government ordered Ethiopian Airline to detain us there until we have paid for the Covid-19 test fee, even after the flight had taxied away, they asked the aircraft to return back and eject us out until they are sure we have all paid.”
He said “even though we have paid, we didn’t get email confirmation, they don’t want to take responsibility for their actions, I paid N42,500 but in the UK I did a free test.”
Similarly, a Congolese passenger, Mr. Richard Matela, said, “I’m a foreigner but I work in Nigeria. I’m arriving from Kinshasha, Congo.”
According him, ” All the paper and administrative work is hectic. I spent six hours at the airport just struggling to fill the forms online. I completed the form but the system is not working properly. I had to call my people here in Nigeria to do whatever they could do to help me fill the online forms and get the proof of payment.
“The airline are very strict. If you don’t show the proof of payment, they won’t allow you to board the aircraft. For me, I didn’t get it so I spent six hours at the airport. It is too.much for me and very stressful. People are missing their flights but efforts should be made to improve the system.”
He further said, “I know the COVID is real but the authorities should find a away to mitigate the system to make it less stressful. Passengers can come and pay on arrival rather than pay at the point of departure. If not, it is very difficult.
“The COVID-19 protocols at the airport is however good. The officials are strict. What I saw is the best on all my flights. I have passed through Ghana and Ethiopia but what I saw in Abuja was the best. It gives me more confidence but the administrative system must improve.”
Speaking to the press on the resumption of International flights at the airport, the Managing Director Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Capt. Rabiu Yadudu who was also on ground to receive the passengers expressed his joy over the resumption of the International flight, describing it as a life saver for everyone in the industry.
Yadudu explained that the last six months had been very slow and challenging for the industry.
He said, “we have been distressed, no revenue, no operation. With the resumption of the International flights, I believe every stakeholder in the industry is very happy with it.”
He noted that aside Ethiopian Airline, the airport will witness more flights as it is still expecting additional two airlines but added that he was yet to confirm the names of the airlines.
He however maintained that FAAN was ready to receive as many airlines that were ready for resumption.
Meanwhile the departure lounge of the International flight wing of Abuja airport was overcrowded with passengers waiting to catch the 1:30pm Ethiopian Airline flight to Addisa baba
The passengers who were on a long queue to board the connecting flight to their various destinations expressed dissatisfaction over queueing for more than an hour before they werre attended to.
The passengers lamented that if they had to keep following this kind of protocols there would be lots of flight delays.