The much anticipated return of flight operations between Lagos and Abuja in the first phase of the restart programme of reopening Nigerian airports finally commenced on Wednesday with Arik Air being the first airline to kick start the exercise from Lagos to Abuja.
Other airlines that made the voyage include Max Air, Ibom Airlines and Air Peace all flying from the General Aviation Terminal GAT and the Murtala Muhammed Terminal Two (MMA2), both at the domestic wing of the Lagos airport.
While Air Peace and Arik both operated three flights each out of Lagos, Ibom Air and Max Air carried out one apiece.
The duo of Aero Contractors and Dana Air have received permissions and have assured their passengers of services today Thursday.
The Chairman, Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) COVID-19 Committee, Mr. Godwin Balang, at an online interactive session on Tuesday night revealed five airlines received approval to commence commercial flight activities on Wednesday whilst others will follow suit in order to observe the spacing procedure put in place.
He Said Air Peace, Arik Air, Dana Airlines, Ibom Air and Overland Airways Limited had met all criteria for them to resume operations.
Our correspondent who was at the domestic wing of MMA reports that staff of FAAN at the GAT and Bi-Courtney Aviation Services Limited BASL, managers of the MMA2 ensured strict observation of the stipulated guidelines as they screened passengers and airport workers before granting them access into both terminals while others not deemed to have legitimate reasons to visit the facilities were turned back.
At the GAT terminal on Wednesday, passengers arrived at the early hours to catch up with their flights aboard Air Peace and Arik Air while staff and officials of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria FAAN work assiduously to ensure the seamless observation and compliance of protocols and rules governing the arrival and boarding procedures.
Passengers who spoke to our reporter described the restart exercise as a huge relief to the start of their hitherto comatose businesses.
Regional Manager, South West Airports Operations and Manager of the international wing of the Murtala Muhammad Airport in Lagos, Mrs Victoria Shin-Aba expressed delight at the rate of compliance with the laid down guidelines by passengers.
Mrs Victoria assured passengers of their safety affirming that a lot of work has been put in place by the authorities to make sure they are safe each time they arrive at the airports to board.
She told reporters that “l am delighted that the skies are open again. We can go back to work and everybody can return to their businesses. We are happy that everything went well as planned.”
“You see writing a plan is different from its implementation. You can write a beautiful plan and checklist but when it comes to actualizing it at times, it becomes an issue, but l can tell you today that all that was put in place according to plan worked well as anticipated.”
Mrs Victoria dispelled fears that the protocols and guidelines could soon be abused and affirmed that a committee is in place to ensure that everything put on paper is practicalised.
“I want to assure Nigerians that much hard work has gone into putting these protocols in place and one of the criteria for reopening of the airports is having an implementation and compliance committee in place. So we have a committee that ensures our compliance to laid down rules.
“We assure Nigerians and the travelling public that they are safe with us at the airports and all that was put in place we will ensure it is carried out. There will be spot checks at intervals to ensure that what we put on paper is what we are carrying out and also what we do” the RM told journalists.
Airlines resume flights
While commercial flight operators are putting efforts to ensure their operations return to normal, some unscheduled aircraft operators are also gearing up for business as the regulatory authority has given them the green light to that effect.
The likes of Allied Air Limited, ANAP Business Jets and Bristow Helicopters our reporter gathered have so complied with the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority NCAA regulations and they are likely to resume operations in a matter of days.
Meanwhile, Chairman, Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) COVID-19 Committee, Mr. Godwin Balang
disclosed that all the Nigerian domestic airports scored an aggregate 87.2 per cent in preparation but only Murtala Muhammed International Airport, GAT; Murtala Muhammed International Airport, MM2; Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport and Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja received approval to restart.
The Chief Operating Officer Ibom Air, George Ureisi in a message on Wednesday announced that the airline would commence operations yesterday stating that,” We’re flying to Abuja at 11am, From tomorrow (today) we will move to two flights- 7am and 11 am.”