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Coronavirus: Delta, Emirates, Air France, Lufthansa, KLM, Others Suspend Flights to Nigeria

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Coronavirus: Delta, Emirates, Air France, Lufthansa, KLM, Others Suspend Flights to Nigeria

Coronavirus: Delta, Emirates, Air France, Lufthansa, KLM, Others Suspend Flights to Nigeria
March 22
07:25 2020

Mega international airlines based in the United States, Europe, Middle East and other parts of the world have suspended flights operations to Nigeria  as the world battles to stem coronavirus spread.

This came as the Federal Government announced the closure of Lagos and Abuja airports to international flights from  Monday.

As the  number of coronavirus cases in Nigeria increased  from 12 on Thursday to 22 on Saturday, the FG, through the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, said on Saturday it would close Abuja and Lagos airports on Monday.

The Director-General, NCAA, Capt Musa Nuhu, in a circular to airline operators on Saturday, said only emergency and essential flights would be exempted from the restrictions.

Nuhu, however, said domestic airlines would continue normal flight operations.

The NCAA’s directive came barely 48 hours after it announced the closure of the Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano,  Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu, and Port Harcourt International Airport, Omagwa.

The NCAA’s circular read in part, “Further to our earlier letter on restrictions of international flights to Nigeria, we wish to inform you that effective March 23 to April 23,  the Murtala Muhammed International Airport and Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja will be closed to all international flights.

“This is in addition to the closure of the Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano, Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu, and Port Harcourt International Airport, Omagwa, effective March 21.”

The Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, on Friday, hinted that all international airports would be closed as part of measures to stop COVID-19 spread.

As of Saturday, there were over 290,000 COVID-19 cases, resulting in over 11,000 deaths globally.

However, more than 93,000, including the Italian index case in Nigeria discharged on Friday night after he tested negative for coronavirus for the second time, recovered.

Following the NCAA’s ban on international flights as Nigeria records more coronavirus cases, findings by our correspondents revealed that Lufthansa German Airlines, US-based Delta Airlines, AirFrance, KLM, Turkish Airlines, Middle East-based Emirates, Qatar and Etihad Airlines suspended flights to Nigeria on Friday and Saturday.

While Delta and Turkish Airlines operated their last flights to the MMIA on Friday, AirFrance, KLM among others operated their last flights to the country on Saturday.

British Airways, Lufthansa, Virgin Atlantic among others are expected to operate their last flights to the country today (Sunday).

Findings at the MMIA and NAIA revealed that some Nigerians and foreigners were rushing to catch the last flights to the country and out of the country.

Travel operators and airport officials confirmed that the few available flights ahead of the Monday closure were fully booked, explaining that some Nigerians and foreigners had brought their travel date forward to escape the imminent airport closure.

According to findings, passengers have been rebooking their flights since Monday when the FG announced revocation of visas of citizens from 13 countries.

Delta confirmed it had suspended its flights to the country.

The airlines, which operated its last flight to Nigeria on Friday, said in a statement on its website, delta.com, “Delta is suspending its service to Lagos, starting March 20, following government travel restrictions.”

Also, Emirates, one of the world’s biggest international airlines, said in a company email seen by one of our correspondents that it was suspending flights to Lagos and Abuja starting from March 23 due to the coronavirus outbreak.

KLM, the flag carrier airline of The Netherlands headquartered in Amstelveen, operated its last flight to Nigeria on Saturday.

“Due to travel restrictions in Nigeria, flights from Schiphol to Nigeria will be suspended as of March 21,” the airline stated on its website, klm.com.

Similarly, AirFrance and Qatar Airways operated their last flights to the country on Saturday.

Lufthansa has also suspended its flights to Nigeria from March 23 to April 19.  An email sent through its agency, Lufthansa City Centre TIFA Travels, said, “Lufthansa flights out of Nigeria are hereby suspended from March 23, 2020 until April 19, 2020.

“The last flights from Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt will operate on Sunday, March 22, 2020, to resume on April 20, 2020 as currently planned.”

Meanwhile, it was learnt that Nigerians and foreigners who planned to leave the country and come in for important meetings had rescheduled their flights, according to airline officials.

As a result of this, inbound and outbound flights in the past few days have been fully booked.

In the meantime, before Saturday’s ban on all international flights, the FG had earlier placed travel restrictions on travellers entry into the country from 15 countries with high burden of coronavirus.

The countries are the United States,  China, Iran, South Korea, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Norway, the Netherlands, Spain, France, Japan, Austria and Sweden.

Nigeria also announced the temporary suspension of the visa-on-arrival policy.

The Secretary to the Government of the Federation and Chairman of the Presidential Task Force for the Control of COVID-19, Boss Mustapha, said, “The restrictions will come into effect from Saturday for four weeks, subject to review.”

Mustapha added, “All persons arriving in Nigeria who might have visited these countries 15 days prior to such arrival will be subjected to supervised self-isolation and testing for 14 days.

“The Federal Government is temporarily suspending the issuance of all visas on arrival. The Federal Government is also counselling all Nigerians to cancel or postpone all non-essential travels to these countries.”

Meanwhile,  the International Air Transport Association last week projected that the disruption to air travel would cost Nigeria’s aviation industry $434m in base revenue, 22,200 jobs, and approximately 2.2 million passengers due to coronavirus spread.

Aviation stakeholders predicted that the losses would be huge, not just for the airlines, but also the economy.

The Managing Partner, Aglow Aviation Support Services, Tayo Ojuri, said the losses would be on safety, operational and financial perspectives.

He said the closure of all international airports in the country for four weeks would impact heavily on the economy as there would be job losses.

Ojuri said, “It is easy to shut down an airline but to restart it is a problem. Many of the airlines won’t return at full capacity, it will take some time for them to recover, some that were offering five flights per week might begin with three.

“A lot of people who rely on airline services to survive will be affected and don’t forget that if airlines don’t work, they may not be financially capable of paying their bills.”

The President, Association of Foreign Airlines and Representatives in Nigeria, Mr Kingsley Nwokoma, described the situation as tragic, saying that the economy would suffer.

“There is life after COVID-19; there will be job losses because airlines are struggling now, many are shutting down already,” he said.

According to him,  the closure of airports to all international flights is a preventive measure but cargo, which brings in supplies, will be affected.

He said “Cargo planes bring in spare parts, medicals and other essentials. I don’t know how the government will work around that.

“Shutting the airports to international flights is a decision that has to happen because most of the cases (coronavirus)  were imported. But the effect on the industry will be much, not just for Nigeria, but for the entire world; the longer the disease stays, the more the problems for the industry.”

For domestic carriers, Nwokoma said they might not be affected as much as the foreign carriers because their operations within the country would continue.

He, however, stated that they would be needing government’s support due to decline in passenger demand.

“Their passengers are not only those within the country, but many of them are also people who come in through foreign carriers from other countries,” he added.

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Mujeeb

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