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Local passenger market records 15% dip over covid-19 disruption

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Turkish Airline suspends flights to Nigeria after airlifting index case

Nigerian passenger traffic on the international routes has declined by about 15 per cent in the last one month over the outbreak of coronavirus disease or covid-19.

Travel agencies disclosed this yesterday, as they confirmed the far-reaching effects of flight disruptions globally.

In a related development, Turkish Airlines announced the temporary cancellation of all its flights to Lagos, Abuja and Port-Harcourt to “avoid the further spread of the coronavirus”.

The airline, which flew in the index case to Nigeria about three weeks ago, said the cancellation of flights to its three high-traffic destinations in Nigeria is in view of the coronavirus situation all over the world.

President of the National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies (NANTA), Bernard Bankole, said there had been a 15 to 20 per cent decline in international travels from Nigeria, though domestic traffic remains intact.

Bankole, ahead of the 44th general meeting of the association in Kano later this month, said many Nigerians who were fond of going to China for business had diverted to other countries like Turkey to get their wares.

The Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, earlier said no fewer than 18 million passengers now travel through the Nigerian airspace in a year, with about 30 per cent foreign travellers.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) recently estimated financial impact of the novel coronavirus, putting the loss at $113 billion.

The new figure was released following a review of financial implication on the public health emergency on the global air transport industry. Just three weeks ago, IATA was expecting lost sales in the range of $30 billion.

The association had said Airlines in Nigeria and other African countries would lose $40 million in revenue this year over flight disruption due to coronavirus spread. The figure is also expected to rise with the spread and new findings.

IATA now sees 2020 global revenue losses for the passenger business of between $63 billion – in a scenario where covid-19 is contained in current markets with over 100 cases as of March 2 – and $113 billion, in event of a broader spread. No estimates are yet available for the impact on cargo operations.

Bankole commended the level of local response to contain the spread and financial supports from the like of Aliko Dangote Foundation to help address the impact and prevention of the viral outbreak.

He said there were plans to launch an awareness programme on coronavirus to be driven by WHO and Nigerian Centre for Disease Control during the forthcoming NANTA’s 44th AGM, to further dispense information critical to managing the situation.

“NANTA supports the very systematic approach of the health organisations and the aviation agencies at the airport in respect to coronavirus and other health-related matters ravaging the world.

“We also commend the airlines for standing strong at a period like this despite operational challenges to address and halt the spread.

“NANTA is planning to set up a special call line to help those who want to reach out to us on the issue as it affects their travel to high-risk countries,” he said.

Turkish Airlines, in a statement yesterday, said the cancellations would affect for flights originally scheduled to arrive Lagos on March 17, 23 and 29, while flights for Abuja scheduled for March 13, 16, 20, 25, 27 and April 1, 2020. Flights for Port-Harcourt will not operate on March 11, 13, 18, 25, and 25.

In a similar vein, British Airways has temporarily suspended flights to and from Italy in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

The airline said in a statement that, “In light of the Italian government’s announcement and the UK government’s official travel advice, we have contacted all customers who are due to travel today (10 March).

“This is a fast-moving situation, and we recommend all customers check for the latest on their flight on ba.com.”

Travellers with flights to or from Italy booked until April 4 can rebook to a later date until the end of May, move their destination to Geneva or Zurich, or claim a full refund.

Easyjet has confirmed that it has cancelled all of its flights to and from Italy for the next two days, which may be extended.

Low-cost carrier Wizz Air has suspended all Italy flights until April 3 due to the country-wide lockdown announced yesterday by the Italian prime minister.

It has also halted flights to Tel Aviv and Eilat due to the implementation of a 14-day quarantine period for all passengers arriving in Israel.

Ryanair has also suspended all flights to Italy, City AM reports. Passengers can claim a full refund or travel credit redeemable for the next 12 months.

International flights will be suspended from March 13 until April 8. It said passengers looking for repatriation could obtain a free move to an earlier Ryanair flight operating until midnight on March 13.


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