Minister of Aviation Hadi Sirika yesterday said the resumption of domestic flight on June 21 will be premised on the implementation of the approved protocols for safe operations of the airlines.
Domestic flights which have been suspended since March as one of the measures to control the spread of the coronavirus,
Sirika, who disclosed this at Monday’s briefing of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, explained that the three weeks period between now and the resumption date is to enable the operators to adhere to all the necessary industry regulations, without which they cannot take to the skies after being dormant for some time.
This is because aviation, unlike other sectors, is a highly regulated one, he said.
The National Coordinator of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, Sani Aliyu, stated this on Monday during a briefing Abuja.
He said, “The aviation industry is requested to start developing protocols to allow for domestic flights to resume anytime from the 21st of June onwards.
Airlines must ensure physical distancing by reducing passenger capacity and ensure the provision of sanitisers and personal protective equipment as well as carrying out temperature checks at the point of entry and departure and ensuring that airports are not congested by either travellers or airports staff.”
The Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, on his part said industry stakeholders should start developing protocols towards flight resumption.
He said the planes that have been packed for the past three months will be serviced to ensure they are safe o fly.
Sirika said: “The maintenance of the aircraft is either usage or calendar time, whichever comes first and then protocols to storages of this aircraft either for short or long time. That is being done currently. The aviation needs to bring these aircraft to safe operations.
“There is also the issues of medical that every pilot should have license of medical permit that states that he is medically fit, well enough to carry out safe operations. Within this period, some of them may fell short and they need to do their medicals and so on and so forth.”
On suggestions that airports are mere shopping malls, the minister said that conclusion was very simplistic not backed by any knowledge.
He said his ministry has been gradually engaging stakeholders ahead of the opening via social media platforms, zoom meetings among others to get them ready to be able to face the challenge of reopening of the airports.
He said the aviation industry is the worst hit and is eager to reopen for business but added “But we must start in a very orderly, organized and safe and efficient manner so that we will achieve the intent and purpose of air travels, which is safety, efficiency and very secured manner. So please bear with us.
have said here that because it is a service industry, if u don’t sell tickets today and you don’t fly I have lost it. For three months people have not flown, which means salaries have not been paid, no income has been made because is a service sector.”
On when international flights will open, he said: “Today, we will begin to receive directives or suggestions or practices and standards from ICAO – international civil aviation organization. We have factored that in. Today, we had a meeting on how we will start operations again. Some countries will definitely run faster than others but I can tell you that countries will huge population and aviation activities such as Nigeria, will definitely need to be cautious, will need to reflect on safety and efficiency of the industry.
“Two hundred million people with 923,766 square kilometers is really enormous and calls for every single action that will hitherto ensure safe operations.”
Continuing the minister said, “the private jets that want us to short circuit the system by which they were given approval for the flights, certainly, it is not for anybody that has money to fly on a private jet from Kano to Lagos or Port Harcourt. No. We still maintain and insist that it must be either be for humanitarian, banking and finance, power, oil and gas, these are the ones that are allowed to fly on private jets. We have seen what happened to FlairJet the other time. And approval is only electronically done.”
He debunked claims that money is being paid for approval of flights.
Sirika said: “This is far from the truth, it is free…people should stop living in the past. For us in this government, we are very conscious of the weight of security in our hands. I have been minister for the past five years and I challenge anybody before these cameras that claims he has given me any money. There is FOI Act in place and we will give you all of the information.”