‘Some Airlines May Not Resume Operations Without Govt’s Intervention’ - THISDAY
BY Chinedu Eze
Some indigenous carriers may not have the operational funds to resume flight operations when the federal government lifts the ban occasioned by COVIID-19 lockdown in June, unless government makes available its promised bailout on time.
To this end, the Managing Director of Med-View Airline, Alhaji Muneer Bankole, called for urgent provision of the palliative government promised the airlines before resumption of flights, saying operators would use the funds to ready their staff and equipment for flight operations. THISDAY investigation also revealed that some airlines are currently negotiating the leasing of their aircraft to a local operator; pending the time they may have operational funds to resume service.
Industry stakeholders said the expected intervention by government was critical for the restart of operations by airlines, noting that before the lockdown Nigeria had only seven airlines that were actively in operation and if some of the airlines would be unable to operate, there would be few aircraft and fewer seats, which would jerk up air fares.
Also before the lockdown, some routes were attracting as much as N45, 000 to N55, 000 for one-way flight because of high demand and low supply, this may worsen with fewer airlines.
Bankole, said government’s palliatives for operating airlines was necessary following the negative impact the Covid-19 virus pandemic has had on the country’s aviation industry especially the airline sub-sector.
He expressed regret that aviation industry was the worst hit by the pandemic, which has devastated the global economy and noted that for domestic airlines to succeed, government needed to give operators palliatives to mitigate the effect of the losses on operations of the airlines.
He explained that most operators found it difficult to render welfare obligations to their staff because of cash crunch, stressing that most operators are struggling to ensure regular payment of salaries to their workers. Bankole further called on the government to reopen the airspace for flight operations in the next few weeks, starting with domestic flights.
He noted that the grounding of aircraft for almost two months would have led to Airworthiness Directives (ADs) on them, while corrosions would have increased due to lack of use, as the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) had issued a circular on the re-auditing of airlines before flight resumption.
“When you fly 200 hours, there are certain checks you do, when you increase that to 400 hours, there are certain checks you need to do again. Also, when you don’t fly again, you still need to carry out some checks on your aircraft because corrosion will set in and some of the pilots’ licenses would have expired by now.
“Aviation industry in general demands for a window. You can see the effect the current pandemic has had on aviation industry globally. The virus, which started from China, spread to the world and disrupted activities within a few months. This will not have happened if not through the air. The airport environment too has changed, while social distancing directive must be complied with. Safety of the frontline workers is very important.
“Aviation needs palliatives to bring life back to it. 90 per cent of workers are at home now. The government should think very critically about the issues of palliatives to the sector. The industry is dying. The sincerity of what we are saying is that the government should see its palliative as a means of life saving lives, fastest means of bringing back economy to live and improve the lives of everybody,” Bankole said.