The federal government’s delay in issuing notice to airmen (NOTAM) and low passenger turnout are key factors delaying the resumption of international flights from the Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano; Port Harcourt International Airport, Omagwa; and the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu.
This is just as THISDAY learnt on Wednesday that the alleged insistence by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) that only Emirates Airlines would be allowed to operate to Dubai from Nigeria has prompted the Minister of Aviation to deny the Middle East airline the approval to resume flights to Abuja and Lagos.
THISDAY investigations revealed that after the special flights operated by Ethiopia Airlines and Egypt Air on April 6, 2021, from Kano to Addis Ababa and Cairo respectively, international flight service was expected to have officially opened from the Kano airport, but airlines are yet to complete their documentations to kick-off operations from there.
THISDAY also learnt that the delay in issuing NOTAM announcing that flights have resumed at the Enugu and Port Harcourt airports was also the reason why flights were yet to start from the two airports, just as Lufthansa, which operates to Port Harcourt airport was yet to express readiness to fly to that destination due to feared low turnout of passengers.
A senior official of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) who disclosed these to THISDAY said Kano airport was officially opened after the special flights by the two African airlines on April 6, but while Port Harcourt Airport has been certified as meeting all the health and other protocols for international service, Enugu, which has met the health protocols is yet to be certified because other protocols, which include markings are yet to be completed.
“Kano airport has been opened officially for international flight service, but the airlines designated to the airport have not completed their documentation. We have agreed that airlines should start operations to Port Harcourt airport because work has been completed there and the international wing of the airport has been marked, but Lufthansa, which is the only international carrier that goes to the airport, has not indicated interest to resume due to possible low traffic.
“Kano, Enugu and Port Harcourt have received Airport Council International (Africa) health accreditation, but as we are opening our airports, Europe is closing theirs. Lufthansa is doing only Abuja and Lagos for now. Ethiopia Airlines will go to Enugu.
“We are waiting for them to go to Enugu, but I cannot confirm if we have finished other protocols for the international wing of Enugu airport, but I will go to Enugu next week for the Airport Performance Evaluation, but I understand that availability of passengers will determine the decision of airlines to resume operations in these three airports,” the source who pleaded to remain anonymous said.
THISDAY also learnt from airline sources that Ethiopia Airlines has concluded plans to operate from Enugu airport, but it is waiting for NOTAM from the federal government to resume flights.
Meanwhile, Sirika may not allow Emirates to resume operation to Nigeria until the UAE carrier drops the condition that it should be only the carrier that would operate from Nigeria, thus allegedly demanding that Air Peace and other carriers such as Ethiopia Airlines, Egypt Air and RwandAir should stop airlifting passengers to Dubai from Nigeria.
The Regional Terminal Manager, South West, in charge of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, Mrs. Victoria Shin-Aba confirmed to THISDAY that Emirates was yet to resume flights in Nigeria.
On February 4 Emirates insisted that it must conduct Rapid Antigens Test (RDT) for Nigerian passengers travelling to Dubai four hours before they board their flights and in addition to the accepted PCR test made compulsory by the federal government.
Officials of travel agencies told THISDAY that they were fully in support of the decision of the federal government not to allow only Emirates to operate to Dubai from Nigeria, saying that travel agents would not make money and air fares would become outrageously high if Emirates was allowed to enjoy such monopoly and this would also shut the door against Nigeria’s indigenous carrier, Air Peace that operates to Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates.
Shin-Aba also told THISDAY that until PTF on COVID-19 provides the needed infrastructure for the rapid test, Emirates would not resume operations in Nigeria.
She also disclosed that other international airlines have started flight operations and things have normalized; however, the passenger traffic has not increased.
Shhin-aba added that COVID-19 protocols of other countries are not discouraging factor to travellers because “air travel is derived demand; people have reason to travel and they are ready to do anything required for them to travel.”
Credit: This Day