Airlines resume, seek release of N27 billion bailout
Local airlines, yesterday, resumed skeletal services following last week’s disruption by the EndSARS protests and the attendant curfew imposed by the Lagos State government.
The demonstrations, which had forced some foreign operators to suspend flights, resulted in grounding of operations by indigenous carriers amid absence of travellers and riots in Nigeria’s economic capital.
But yesterday, life began returning to the airports, even as operators push for disbursement of the N27 billion aviation bailout announced by the Federal Government to mitigate losses incurred following outbreak of the novel coronavirus across the globe.
Dana Air confirmed its resumption of flights on all routes nationwide.
The Media Communication Manager, Kingsley Ezenwa, added tickets sold within the period of the curfew remain valid, and could be rescheduled at no cost.
Also, Azman Air said trips between Lagos and Kaduna, Kano and Abuja, as well as Benin and Abuja were available.
Arik Air spoke in the same light, authenticating flights from its hubs in Lagos and Abuja to Port Harcourt, Ilorin, Benin, Kano and Yola.
Players were unanimous that the one-week interruption worsened their lot, after months of lockdown engendered by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Following the estimated losses, government had pledged to assist the industry with the intervention fund. By calculations, the airlines were to get at least N10 billion of the money.
However, delay in release and denials on its whereabouts by officials have prompted suspicions that the funds might have been diverted.
But the Director-General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Captain Musa Nuhu, recently said plan to disburse the lifeline was ongoing, adding that only airlines with valid Air Operating Certificates (AOCs) would benefit from the largesse.
Regional Vice President for Africa and Middle East of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), Muhammad Albakri, also called for prompt financial support for the stakeholders.
He acknowledged that airlines globally were in dire straits, and at the risk of collapse without government’s intervention.
Four international operators across Africa have ceased operations due to the COVID-19 shocks, and two others are in voluntary administration, with many more in serious financial distress.
In the absence of urgent financial assistance, more carriers and their employees are endangered, so is the African air transport industry that supports 7.7 million jobs on the continent.
The governments of Rwanda, Senegal, Cote d’Ivoire and Burkina Faso have pledged $311 million in direct financial support to the sector.
A further $30 billion has been promised by some governments, international finance bodies and other institutions, including the African Development Bank, African Export Import Bank, African Union and the International Monetary Fund for air transport and tourism.