After about four months of suspension of domestic and international flights because of COVID-19 pandemic, operations commenced yesterday with low turnout and strict protocols.
No fewer than four airlines started operations flying from the Murtala Mohammed Airport to Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja. They included Arik Air, Air Peace, Max Air and Ibom Air. Other airlines are expected to start today and in the coming days.
The first flight from Lagos operated by Arik Air departed the General Aviation Terminal (GAT) popularly called MMA1 by 7:15 am with 78 passengers.
The passengers boarded under the supervision of officials of the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA). Air Peace flight PA47120 departed at 11:50 am with 103 passengers on board.
Max Air and Ibom Air on their parts departed from MMA2 private terminal operated by Bi-Courtney Aviation Services Limited (BASL). The federal government had announced the reopening of the airports today starting with the Murtala Muhammed Airport (MMA) Lagos and the Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport, Abuja.
The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) had also approved many airlines for the recommencement of operations after fulfilling all the protocols and guidelines for the post-COVID-19 shutdown operations. Daily Trust observed passengers checking in and boarding in strict observance of social distancing as they stood on the clearly marked floors in and outside the terminal.
One of the passengers scheduled to travel on Max Air, Aishat Khalid said she was excited with the flight’s resumption, adding that she had patiently looked forward to the reopening of the airports. “I left home at 6: 00 am for this flight, that is to tell you how excited I am for the flight resumption,” she said.
Daily Trust reports that similar protocols were strictly observed in Abuja even as travellers were scanty on the first day of flight operations.
Our correspondent also reports that passengers conducted themselves in an orderly manner obeying all safety protocols. Sniffer dogs were also deployed to screen bags for contrabands and explosives ahead of the bags disinfection protocol.
A cross section of the passengers who spoke to our correspondent commended FAAN and the NCAA for the efforts to keep the terminals safe for travellers amidst the ravaging COVID-19 pandemic.
Toyin Adetunji, a passenger on an Air Peace flight to Lagos, told our correspondent that the experience was pleasing and commended the authorities for effective crowd control. “Before now, we would have found this entire waiting lounge so jam packed and crowded. But the initiative not to have so many airlines fly about the same time has helped to minimise crowd. If we had a crowd, it could create an environment for COVID-19 spread” he said.
Also commenting, a controller with the Nigerian Correctional Service, Mr. Ahmed Abu, said he feels safe at the airport. “We had to be here at least three hours before the scheduled time of the flight. We underwent strenuous protective measures to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 during the check-in processes.