CAPE TOWN, June 17 (ANA) - Nigerian airlines are set to resume flights on June 21 after a Covid-19 shutdown, although they are yet to receive a bailout promised by the federal government weeks ago, the Guardian Nigeria newspaper has reported.
It said 11 carriers had already submitted their resumption plans to the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), with two airlines marketing flight tickets since last week.
The NCAA said it was still working to ensure full compliance with strict guidelines before travel resumed. The authority is expected to issue clearance to airlines this week.
In March, the federal government prohibited domestic and international flights as Nigeria went into lockdown to try to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
According to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, the country currently has 17 148 cases of Covid-19, of which 455 people have died while 5 623 have recovered.
The lockdown has crippled the aviation sector across the globe. In Nigeria, the industry has lost about N180 billion (about US$464 million).
Over 5 000 registered travel agencies have placed their staff on special leave while airlines have only retained 20% of employees who also had to take salary cuts, the Guardian Nigeria reported.
Aviation minister Hadi Sirika previously said the government was working on a bailout package for airlines and other operators. The chief operating officer of one of the country’s airlines told the Guardian that it was ‘insincere and shoddy’ of the government to tell airlines to get ready to resume business when it was not eager to assist the industry into the "new normal".
“Look around the world at countries that are reopening the aviation sectors. You will see that it is a joint effort of all stakeholders, with the government taking the lead," the executive reportedly said.
“Here, what do you have? The government has withheld the bailout they promised, forgetting that the aim was to help the airlines defray some costs of operations, recall workers, put necessary things and new safety procedures in place ahead of resumption.
"Nobody knows what has happened to the bailout and you are telling the airlines to resume if they are ready,” the unnamed official added, saying his airline was 50% ready.
With airlines limited to carrying 50 to 70% of their passenger capacity, one company, Dana Air, said it was 100% ready.
"We have always been ready to do physical distancing onboard and the new 50 to 70% capacity policy of the government," spokesman Kingsley Ezwenwa said.
“But we all must remember that the airlines, at full capacity, had issues. So, complying with the reduced capacity directive should be rewarded with government’s support for the airlines. We all need to work hand in hand."
- African News Agency (ANA), Editing by Stella Mapenzauswa