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Nigeria’s international airport terminals scanty as bans take effect

By Wole Oyebade
19 March 2020   |   3:11 am
A wave of travel bans and restrictions worldwide has depleted passenger traffic at international airports in Nigeria.

Arik suspends west coast operations

A wave of travel bans and restrictions worldwide has depleted passenger traffic at international airports in Nigeria.

A visit to Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos and Nnamdi Azikiwe International, Abuja, yesterday, showed a significant drop in traffic despite the availability of some scheduled flight services and operating aircraft on the ground.

In Lagos, the airport corridor, from the car park to the ever-busy terminal, was the shadow of its old self, as very scanty arrivals and departure were noticed during the evening peak periods.

While flights into some neighbouring African countries continued on schedule, flights into Europe and the United States were almost empty.

The Guardian learnt that the situation was not unconnected with pockets of flight restrictions in parts of the world, airlines’ cancellations, and panic that have forced many travellers to cancel trips.

As at yesterday, about 88 countries have thus far imposed some travel restrictions and border closure in moves to prevent the spread. Nigeria was the latest to also slam travel restrictions on 13 countries that have covid-19 prevalence. The ban takes effect tomorrow.

The coronavirus has infected more than 200,000 people and killed more than 8,000 globally, with almost 80,000 people having recovered from the infection, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University.

President of the Association of Foreign Airlines and Representatives of Nigeria (AFARN), Kingsley Nwokoma, said the empty terminal was the effect of a “troubled industry and very difficult period” since the outbreak of covid-19.

Nwokoma said it began with slow traffic, then cancellation of flights, and great reduction in cargo traffic.

“When it started, it was like a joke; we all think it will soon pass away. The cargo sector or aviation generally is a big hit because most of the carriers that do not have freighters, they do a combo. But if we don’t have people going to the airports, meet with carriers to facilitate their cargo, where do you expect the cargo to come from?”

He added that over 20 airlines were operating into the country before the outbreak of the corona disease but not up to half of the airlines were operating into the country now.

Nwokoma noted that Asia is the market for most export and import, but since the pandemic, production and export of goods had been brought to a halt.

In a related development, Arik Air has announced the temporary suspension of flights to all its West Coast destinations effective Monday, March 23, 2020.

The management of the airline took the decision after a careful analysis of the novel covid-19.

The Chief Executive Officer of Arik Air, Captain Roy Ilegbodu, said the safety and well-being of his personnel and valued customers were paramount at this critical time.

“We do not want to take chances and this is why we have taken this decision. The airline apologises to customers whose travel plans may have been affected by the suspension of flights and promise to mitigate the effects by ensuring a prompt refund of tickets,” Ilegbodu said.