Nigeria signal plans to reopen international air travel

Precious ADELOLA

LAGOS-AFTER almost five months shutdown due to the COVID19 pandemic, the Nigerian authorities have finally signaled the reopening of international air operations as it instructed the aviation industry and airline operators on Thursday, to begin the process for the restart of international flights with a hint that passengers would spend more time at airports before boarding.

The call was made by the presidential task force on COVID-19 during s briefing in Abuja on Thursday.

Recall that local airports were opened in July after about four months of closure as a result of the corona virus pandemic, which made travelers optimistic for the resumption of international flights.

According to the National Coordinator of the task force, Sani Aliyu, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, and other agencies, as well as airlines, should start the process for the resumption of international flights.

Aliyu disclosed that passengers would arrive three hours before flights when the country’s airspace finally reopens for international operations.

He said, “Specific to air transportation, as you are aware, domestic flights have already resumed, the railway sector has also restarted. For international travel, we have made recommendations to the aviation industry to commence the process for reopening international airports provided all existing international and local Covid-19 protocol are in place.

“We have modified the protocol for passenger arrivals at the airports. Domestic passengers arriving at the airports are advised to arrive one hour before their flights and three hours before international flights – when this restarts.”

The national coordinator stressed that though the government would like to restart international flights to balance health concerns and economic recovery, the government also would like to do so in a safe manner.

“There may be additional infrastructure for some of the airports. What we want to do and we’ve made it very clear at the PTF is that we want to resume as soon as possible but in a safe manner and do not put at risk all that we’ve done to control this pandemic. Hopefully in weeks but not months,” he added.

On his part during the briefing, Aviation Minister, Hadi Sirika, noted that the government was conscious of its decision and would like to reopen as soon as possible while working with other ministries, departments, and agencies of government.

Sirika lamented that thousands of jobs have been lost as a result of the pandemic.

He said international flights would resume in a safe manner but disclosed that a date is not fixed for that yet.

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