AUTHORITIES are considering reopening domestic travel gradually with four or five airports at a time so as not to rush head long and choke up the system as well as provide massive campaigns to rebuild confidence and encourage people into flying.
This is just players say government does not need to give airlines money to buy aircraft but to intervene with specific things that would retain jobs first and foremost before anything as well as reduce the forex spending by domesticating most foreign trainings and other forex intensive expenditure.
Managing Director of Air Peace, Chief Allen Onyema, Director General Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Captain Musa Nuhu, Former Director General of NCAA, Dr. Harold Demuren and managing director NAMA, Captain Fola Akinkuotu, Chief Accounting Officer Dana Obi Mbanuzor were among a few who participated at a webinar.
The Webinar organized by the Aviation Safety Round Table Initiative (ART) titled COVID-19: The Challenges and Opportunity for Nigeria’s Aviation Value Chain, During and Post.
Chairman Air Peace, Chief Allen Onyema who spoke from the airline perceptive encouraged government to provide intervention but put up a caveat that the intervention should be specific and used to ensure jobs are maintained in the country.
He also said it is difficult for airlines especially with the reeled out guidelines stating that airlines pay about 37 charges and with the covid-19 and other extra costs it makes it difficult.
He further disagreed with plans to leave the middle seats of aircraft open as it will further decimate the revenues the airlines make given all these additional costs by the airlines.
“the world is on break, nothing is happening… authorities have reeled out things and these things come with a huge cost. How will airlines manage that and pay about thirty-seven 37 charges. The airlines are going to bear the brunt of all this. I do not want free money that I cannot account for. This is not an opportunity to ask for money to buy new plane. In fact this intervention should be for the work force. I have over 3, 000 staff at Air Peace, these people’s livelihood are endangered and you must do everything possible to keep jobs in the country.
“We should be asking government for specific things that would help retain jobs, job retention should be first and foremost
Onyema also mused as aviation was preparing to return to the skies, how the purchasing power of passengers post COVID-19 would help with pricing of tickets.
“ First of all, we have to look into the purchasing power of Nigerians before COVID-19 our cheapest ticket was N23,000 amounting about $63 dollars now that same $63 dollars amounts N40,000 and so you ask, can Nigerian passengers afford it?”
Onyema also disagreed with leaving middle seats empty stating that it is economically nonviable for airlines which are already facing a near extinction threat.
Agreeing with him on the middle seat debate, Chief Accountable officer of Dana Air Obi Mbanuzor also went a step further calling for local sharing of resources especially as it regards training of crew, maintenance and other aspects of the sub-sector that run on foreign exchange.
“We need simulator available locally; we should start thinking of how to get this done, individually as airlines or collectively. We spend a lot of forex in training abroad, maintenance is done abroad with forex, this will not help us and so we have to collaborate.
Speaking earlier, Director General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) Captain musa Nuhu and Managing Director of Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) Captain Fola Akinkuotu put forward the idea of restarting domestic travel with four or five airports in a bid not to choke the system.
Captain Nuhu who initiated that conversation said air transport must be safe and not become part of spreading the Corona Virus. He stated that physical distancing is an issue and discussions were still on because of the issue of vacating the middle seat.
“ We may resume domestic operations with four or five airports and we expand as we get better. We don’t want to rush everything at the same time and get it choked up… If you do that extra expenses and airlines need money, every money is important and we cannot achieve the 2 meters physical distance but we are hopeful in the next few days we can resolve that.
He said the team has discussed what the sub-sector ( airlines, ground handlers, service providers etc) need and forwarded to the Minister, Hadi Sirika for approval stating that,” We have made our suggestion and recommendations and we are awaiting feedback.
“We may not get all we requested as you know but we are hopeful”, he said.
Managing Director NAMA gave a glimmer of hope stating that,” Aviation survived the security challenges of 9/11 and I believe we will survive COVID-19.
He also empathized with the airlines stating that forex is high and needed for training, spare parts, maintenance and a lot of other key factors stressing that airlines will be the ones absorbing these charges. He also agreed with the NCAA DG on reopening domestic operations stating that Lagos, Abuja, Kano and Port Harcourt can open first while government faces the challenges and tweak plans to ensure others are open.