Nigerian airline operators have suspended domestic operations for two weeks to join the fight against the spread of COVID-19 in the giant of Africa. Given recent global developments on the speed at which the virus is spreading within countries and paralysing national strength, the operators have all decided to show commitments to the wellbeing of the nation with the temporary business shut down.
Their decision came a few days after the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) issued a memo that closed its airports to all international flights, except emergency and essential flights.
While Dana Air stopped operations on Wednesday the 25th of March and Aero Contractors scheduled the temporary close of operation for midnight of Thursday, 26th of March, other operators like Air Peace, Arik Air and Azman Air have scheduled their business closures for Friday the 27th of March. The operators have all made public statements to address their customers on the move, noting when the suspension will commence.
Part of the public statement made by Air Peace reads: “It is with a great sense of responsibility that we have decided, in the best interest of our nation, our passengers and workforce, to suspend scheduled flight operations for 23 days effective 23.00hrs on Friday (an hour before midnight on Friday) the 27th day of March 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
In a report, Arik Air is quoted to have said that “the management took this decision in order to mitigate the risk of the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19) to its valued customers and staff, and hopes to resume services as soon as feasible. Customers who have confirmed tickets have been advised that they could still use their tickets when the airline resumes flight operations. Such tickets could also be modified at no extra charge.”
In addition to grounding its domestic flights for 2 weeks, Aero Contractor has offered its aircraft, both fixed-wing and helicopters, to the federal government for airlift of relief materials, medical equipment and personnel in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. The Chief Executive Officer of the airline, Captain Ado Sanusi, said: “the aircraft would henceforth be at the disposal of the Presidential Task Force for the Control of Coronavirus in Nigeria.”
The NCAA specifically exempted domestic flights from the restrictions by saying that “domestic flights will continue normal operations at all airports” but gave conditions for operation. However, these companies have prioritised the health and safety of their customers, workforce and the nation at large. This laudable move by the operators will no doubt come with cost implications.
THE NCAA MEMO
According to the memo by the NCAA, from “Monday 23rd March at 23002 to 23rd April at 2300Z, Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos (DNMM) and Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport Abuja (DNAA) will be closed to all international flights.” The decision by the NCAA was an addition to the closure of Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano (DNKN), Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu (DNEN) and Port-Harcourt International Airport, Omagwa (DNPO) which took place on Saturday 21 March at 2300Z.
Flights considered as Essential by the NCAA include Aircraft in State of emergency; Overflights; Operations related to humanitarian aid, medical and relief flights; Alternate aerodromes identified in the flight plan (including those being used for extended diversion time operations); Technical stop where passengers do not disembark; Cargo flights; Other safety-related operations.