Nigeria loses N30 billion monthly to international airspace closure

PHOTO: NewYorkTimes
PHOTO: NewYorkTimes

• Operators wary of quarantine directive
The Nigerian aviation industry on a monthly basis loses about N30 billion over the continued closure of the international airspace due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The losses, borne by the host economy, operating local and international carriers, and sundry service providers, were derived from the $1 billion or N360 billion yearly average earning and about five million passengers that travel through Nigeria.

Data released by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), showed that the sector could lose as much as $990 million to $1.1 billion should the closure stay longer. Passenger traffic losses were put at between 4.7 million and 5.32 million. Job losses for the sector were also put at 125,400 and 139,500.

Nigeria is the second worst-hit by the restriction in commercial flight, after South Africa. The Rainbow nation was estimated to lose $3.02 billion. This was due to passenger traffic of between 14.5 million and 15.61 million passengers that were not carried. Job losses were between 251,100 and 269,900.
To halt the losses, IATA has urged the Nigerian government and others in Africa to implement alternatives to quarantine on arrival that would allow economies to re-start while avoiding the importation of COVID-19 cases.

As at last week, some airlines have expressed readiness to fly the Nigerian routes again, though subject to the governments reopening of the international airports and removal of the 14-day quarantine order.

Virgin Atlantic announced plans to restart passenger flying to 17 additional destinations from August 2020. Flights from Lagos to London Heathrow start on the 24th August 2020 and will provide connections to a range of U.S. destinations.

The Chief Commercial Officer, Virgin Atlantic, Juha Jarvinen, said they were monitoring external conditions closely, in particular the travel restrictions many countries have in place including the 14 day quarantine policy for travellers entering the UK.

Delta Air also disclosed plans to add almost 1,000 flights system-wide in July, boosting service and nonstop connectivity to popular summer destinations and major business markets.

However, government-imposed quarantine measures in 36 countries across Africa and the Middle East (AME) account for 40 per cent of all quarantine measures globally. With over 80 per cent of travellers unwilling to travel when quarantine is required, “the impact of these measures is that countries remain in lockdown even if their borders are open.”
IATA’s Regional Vice President for Africa and the Middle East, Muhammad Albakri, said it was critical that AME governments implement alternatives to quarantine measures.

“AME has the highest number of countries in the world with government-imposed quarantine measures on arriving passengers. The region is effectively in complete lockdown with the travel and tourism sector shuttered. This is detrimental in a region where 8.6 million people depend on aviation for their livelihoods,” Albakri said.

IATA proposes a layering of measures to protect public health while re-starting aviation. They are reducing the risk of imported cases via travellers, and discouraging symptomatic passengers from travelling with airlines offering flexibility to passengers, who need to adjust their schedule.

Also, public health risk mitigation measures such as health screening by governments in the form of health declarations, and COVID-19 testing for travellers from countries perceived to be “higher-risk” when accurate and fast testing is available at scale.

Economies across AME have been devastated by COVID-19, and the aviation industry has been especially hard-hit. Across the region, more than 8.6 million jobs in the airline industry and those businesses supported by aviation are at risk. Thousands of jobs have already been lost due to the shutdown of air traffic.

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