The Federal Ministry of Aviation in Nigeria announced on Wednesday that airports will begin to reopen in July. Domestic flights will resume from Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, and Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, on July 8th. There is still no news on international travel, but the Minister for Aviation, Hadi Sirika, said that the date will be decided soon.
Domestic flights to resume
Nigeria suspended all flights in March after the country’s coronavirus cases increased from 12 to 22. The initial ban was meant to last for one month, but as cases continued to grow, the ban was extended.
Finally, domestic flights are set to resume from July 8th. This can only be good news for those waiting for the return of international travel to the country. The Minister for Aviation, Hadi Sirika, made the announcement from his Twitter page.
Domestic flights between Lagos and Abuja will start on July 8th. Kano, Port Harcourt, Owerri, and Maiduguri airports will reopen on July 11th, and all other airports in the country will resume domestic travel from July 15th. He added that the date for international travel was still to de decided.
I am glad to announce that Abuja & Lagos airports will resume domestic operations on the 8th of July, 2020. Kano, Port Harcourt, Owerri & Maiduguri to resume on the 11th. Other airports on the 15th. Date for international to be announced in due course. Bear with us, please 🇳🇬🙏🏽🇳🇬
— Hadi Sirika (@hadisirika) July 1, 2020
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Airport dry run
In preparing to reopen, the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) held dry run simulation exercises at the end of June. The simulation exercises were conducted at the domestic terminals of Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport and Murtala Muhammed International Airport to assess if the airports were ready to reopen.
The exercises began at Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, where passengers were taken through the new departure protocols that have been put in place to ensure passenger safety. The team then traveled to Lagos on a Boeing 737 Aerocontractors flight. The team from Abuja arrived at the General Aviation Terminal, Lagos at about 12:00. The flight carried 51 passengers and included several ministers, stakeholders, and representatives from FAAN and the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA).
The test run was extensive. The team attending the exercise went through check-in protocols, including temperature checks, baggage, and social distancing procedures. Like other airports, Abuja is also trialing the use of robots. The robots will be used for passenger profiling, check-ins, temperature checks, and to identify any security threats.
The team also witnessed what would happen if a sick person was identified. Health personnel dressed in full personal protective equipment demonstrated how they would attend to an infected person, including evacuation to a safe area as well as closing and disinfecting the area where they were found.
Speaking at the event, Hadi Sirika said,
“Everything for me in this demo exercise worked very well. We came and began maintaining physical distance right from the outside. All the markings are there, and we respected that. During the checking procedure, we were shielded from the check-in officials.”
He added that the process was quite nice but took a long time, and domestic passengers would need to be at the airport three hours before their flight. For international flights, this may need to be five hours.
Video: Press Briefing by the Hon. Minister of Aviation, Sen. @hadisirika after the dry run simulation exercises at the Domestic Terminal of Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja and Domestic Terminals Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos respectively.@fmaviationng @FMICNigeria pic.twitter.com/zTJtWu4cE3
— FAAN (@FAAN_Official) July 1, 2020
Air Peace and Dana Air test runs
Air Peace and Dana Air took part in a dry run and also conducted shakedown flights. Air Peace deployed its 25 aircraft, which flew from Lagos to Abuja, Port Harcourt, and back to Lagos without passengers under the exercise. Dana Air flew its planes from Lagos to Port Harcourt. The dry run and shakedown flights were supervised by the NCAA and were to ensure that the planes were in good condition after being grounded for close to three months.
Although there has been a ban on flights in Nigeria, Air Peace has been operating charter and evacuation flights to various international destinations during the lockdown, including India, Israel, and China. The airline was prevented from flying to Canada in May. The flights were part of an operation to return 4,000 Nigerian citizens home following the COVID-19 pandemic.
Overall, Nigeria seems very prepared for airports to reopen. All eyes will be watching as domestic flights resume and, if everything goes to plan, it can only be a matter of time before international flights are seen in Nigeria again.
When do you think Nigeria will allow international travel again? Let us know in the comments.