The Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), said on Sunday that it would implement flight spacing at all its airports as part of the safety measures ahead of the reopening of airports for commercial flights.
The decision, according to the Managing Director, Capt. Rabiu Yadudu, would reduce the number of people at the airports.
Daily Trust reports that the agency had, on Saturday, held dry run simulation exercises at domestic terminals of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja and Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos respectively to assess the readiness of the airports for reopening.
Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, who led members of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 to Lagos from Abuja, expressed satisfaction with the level of preparedness of stakeholders to return to the sky by next month.
Speaking with journalists in Lagos, Yadudu declared the flight spacing was not to disrupt any of the airline’s schedules but to ensure total safety of passengers, airline staff and others within the airport environment.
According to him, FAAN had informed the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) of its plan, which he said would restrict multiple departures of flights from the same terminal at the same time.
He said: “We have already told NCAA that we are going to space the flights.
“No two airlines will depart at the same time from our airports.
“The spacing is not to make things difficult for the operators, but to protect their staff and other users of our airports.
“It is not going to be unnecessary spacing.
“Like I told them, it is not a slot, but just spacing of flights.”
Concerns over Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos
On the inadequate space at the General Aviation Terminal of the Murtala Muhammed Airport (MMA1), Lagos, Yadudu stated that there were plans to increase its capacity by about 200 per cent with the construction of fabricated materials within the facility.
He said FAAN was ready to reopen the airports for commercial flights three months after it was suspended due to COVID-19 outbreak.
He disclosed that about 85 to 90 per cent of the agency’s staff had been trained by World Health Organisation (WHO) on operational and response time on COVID-19 pandemic.
He added that FAAN’s staff had been trained by Port Health Services in order to ensure compliance on resumption, saying all the protocols laid down by the NCAA had been followed to the latter.
He said: “No airport in Nigeria has 100 per cent of its staff trained by WHO and Port Health on COVID-19 pandemic but we achieved that with Owerri Airport.
“All our staff at Owerri airport are trained 100 per cent with certificates issued.
“Overall, about 85 to 90 per cent of our staff have been trained and we want to achieve 100 per cent training for all.
“At GAT, we have also erected a large canopy for people to stay in case of rain.
“We also have sanitisers and equipment to test their temperature at the airport and others in the country.
“Our tap water has sensors to minimse touch.
Also, the MD disclosed that FAAN was installing transparent shields in front of all airline counters operating from its terminal in a bid to minimise physical contacts, adding that wearing of face masks and other protocols by Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) would be made compulsory.
‘Airlines 100 percent ready to resume flights’
Airlines have expressed readiness to resume operations as soon as the government gives the approval for reopening of airports.
Speaking on behalf of the airlines, Chairman/CEO of Air Peace, Mr. Allen Onyema, said the operators were 100 per cent ready to resume flights.
While he said the airlines were opposed to skipping middle seat inside the aircraft, he said they have put in place measures to minimise contact.
“We are going to put your water and snacks on your seat before you board.
“We have minimised the chances of contact inside the aircraft,” he said.
Onyema added: “The airlines are 100 per cent ready.
“The airlines are very, very ready.
“The airlines are ready to even start tomorrow and we must thank the Honourable Minister of Aviation for a job well done.
“The Minister has done fantastic job at the airports.
Like you heard him, they are 95 per cent ready, that’s the aggregate. But the airlines are 100 per cent ready. Port Health also has a lot of work to do.
“So when the Minister talked about 95 per cent readiness, he is talking about the aggregate of readiness by all the stakeholders put together.
“The job has not been an easy one…
“This is a new normal we are all going to face and we have to give kudos to the Federal Government of Nigeria.
“Most countries are grappling with one difficulty or the other with flight resumption, our own is not an exception and this is time for us to hit the sky again.”