Some domestic airlines on Wednesday resumed operations following three months of COVID-19 lockdown.
A News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) correspondent who monitored resumption of the airlines at both GAT Alpha and MM2 terminals in Lagos, reports that few passengers were seen boarding, while social distancing and other precautionary measures were observed.
NAN recalls that the Federal Government had directed the resumption of domestic flights on July 8, after the March 30 lockdown of the airlines.
As at 6.30 a.m. on Wednesday, Arik Air passengers had started boarding for the first flight from Lagos to Abuja, scheduled to depart at 7 a.m.
NAN also observed that passengers complied with the COVID-19 preventive screening measures before boarding, but stores within the airport were all locked.
A check by NAN revealed that there had been a significant increase in airfares, as some airlines resumed operations (today) Wednesday.
The airlines raised their fares in all classes of tickets for one-hour flights from Lagos to Abuja.
Air Peace sold its Economy-Flexi Domestic plan for N33,001 for a one way Lagos-Abuja trip, while the business class ticket was sold for N80,000.
Arik Air’s economy plan was sold for N29,189, while the business class was N78,532 for a one-way Lagos to Abuja trip.
However, one of the airline officials, who preferred anonymity, told NAN that prices of the tickets were driven by extra costs factored into the base fare.
The source said that taxes and other fares increased by the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) was also responsible for the hike in fares.
Adebanji Ola, the Public Relations and Communications Manager of Arik Air, commended government agencies for putting adequate measures in place for airlines to commence operations.
Mr Ola said that Arik Air commenced three daily flight operations from Lagos to Abuja, in the first phase of the aviation restart.
According to him, it is a new beginning in the aviation sector and prays that the COVID-19 pandemic will be fully addressed in Nigeria.
He said that “for us in Arik Air, protection of passengers and cabin crew remains paramount and we have put effective measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“We commend the government at all levels in ensuring effective synergy and support for the aviation sector toward combating the pandemic.”
Some of the passengers who spoke to NAN commended the measures put in place by the government at the airport to prevent the infection of COVID-19.
Kola Balogun, the Chairman of Momas Electricity Meters Manufacturing Company Limited, who was boarding to fly with Arik Air, commended the management of FAAN on the preventive measures put in place at the aiport.
He said “I am highly impressed with the level of compliance and processes I am seeing here today.
“I commend FAAN for making lives more comfortable and sticking to the social distancing methodology.
“I urge the Federal Government to support the airlines’ operations through interventions for them to bounce back in business.”
Tayo Ojulari, an aviation stakeholder, said that he did not subscribe to leaving the centre seats in the aircraft as directed by the government.
“The cost of operations and FOREX is affecting airlines, reducing passengers capacity to 50 per cent, which is another economic implication for the airlines,” he said.
The Director of Aviation Security of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Usman Sadiq, said that adequate security measures had been put in place at the airport.
Mr Sadiq said the government had also increased the security manpower at the airport for effective measures.
“There is effective synergy between the various security agencies across airports in the country to tackle the numerous security breach incidents.
“All security agencies are on ground to ensure law and order at the airports, and today, we can see that Nigerians are well behaved from what was demonstrated,” he said.
He also expressed gratitude to the management team of FAAN for their support in carrying out their responsibilities.
“I am excited to add that the highest level of the authority’s management, an enviable leadership, commitment and support, has been displayed again and again in an unequivocal manner.
“For this, we are grateful and rededicated to achieving the core mission of developing and profitably managing customer-oriented airport facilities for safe, secure and efficient carriage of passengers and goods at world- class standards of quality,” Mr Sadiq said.
However, security personnel at the MM2 terminal refused NAN correspondent into the terminal, claiming it was a management directive.