• Air Peace suspends Liberia, Senegal flights
• FG may restrict international flights to Lagos, Abuja
The disruption to air travel due to the continued spread of coronavirus will cost Nigeria’s aviation industry over N160.58bn (using Bureau de Change rate of N370 to $1) ($434m) in revenue and 22,200 jobs, the International Air Transport Association has said.
IATA said on Thursday that the country would also lose approximately 2.2 million passengers.
The association, an umbrella body for 290 airlines globally, had in early March projected 853,000 losses in passenger volumes and $170m loss in base revenues in Nigeria if the spread of COVID-19 continued.
In its country specific loss analysis, the IATA said since the end of January, thousands of passenger flights had been cancelled in Africa.
It added that the cancellations would increase exponentially with the implementation of additional measures in different countries.
IATA said, “International bookings in Africa are down roughly 20 per cent in March and April, domestic bookings have fallen by about 15 per cent in March and 25 per cent in April, according to the latest data.
“African airlines had lost $4.4bn in revenue as of March 11, 2020. Ticket refunds have increased by 75 per cent in 2020 compared to the same period in 2019 (01 February – 11 March).”
The association said South Africa would also lose six million passengers, $1.2bn in base revenues and risk over 102,000 jobs.
According to IATA, other African countries expected to record huge losses are Kenya ($320m), Ethiopia ($202m) and Rwanda ($52m).
IATA said the expected job losses for Kenya would be 36,800; Ethiopia, 98, 400; and Rwanda, 3,000 while loss in passenger volume would be 1.6 million, 1.2 million and 201,000 for the three countries respectively.
Director General and Chief Executive Officer, IATA, Alexander de Junaic, appealed for governments’ support for the industry.
He said, “Stopping the spread of COVID-19 is the top priority of governments. But they must be aware that the public health emergency has now become a catastrophe for economies and for aviation.
“The scale of the current industry crisis is much worse and far more widespread than 9/11, SARS or the 2008 Global Financial Crisis.
“Airlines are fighting for survival. Many routes have been suspended in Africa and Middle East and airlines have seen demand fall by as much as 60 per cent on remaining ones.”
In a related development, Air Peace has said it is suspending its flight operations to Dakar, Senegal and Monrovia, Liberia as a result of the global coronavirus crisis.
The airline said it would also be cutting down its Freetown, Sierra Leone and Banjul, Gambia operations to one flight a week and would suspend its Dubai via Sharjah flights from next week.
The Chief Operating Officer, Air Peace, Mrs Toyin Olajide, who made this known on Thursday, said the airline would also be reducing its operations into Accra, Ghana from Lagos to two flights daily and suspend its Abuja-Accra operations.
Olajide said, “Air Peace, as a result of the adverse effects of the coronavirus pandemic on passenger traffic, has today taken the hard decision to downsize its flight operations in order to cut the mounting costs occasioned by the pandemic.
“On the domestic scene, we are reducing our frequencies while at the same time, restructuring our operations by deploying our hoppers to more airports.
“Our international operations into Dubai through Sharjah International airport shall be suspended from next week as the United Arab Emirates has shut its airports to nationals from other countries including but not limited to Nigeria.”
She said the airline took the decision after emergency meeting following a decline in passenger traffic and the need to cut costs.
Meanwhile, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority has suspended training and exchange programmes involving foreign trips for all its staff.
In a statement signed by the regulatory agency’s General Manager, Public Relations, Sam Adurogboye, on Thursday, the NCAA said it was part of steps to protect its workforce from the coronavirus scourge.
Adurogboye said the NCAA had issued detailed guidelines for officers of the agency who had recently travelled abroad to self-isolate for 14 days among other measures upon their return to Nigeria.
He said, “This is just as a directive for the compilation of details of all NCAA staff already on any official assignments or training to a country where there is community transmission of COVID-19.
“This is to be forwarded to the office of the director general and the general manager, aero medical standards. All pending inspections, trainings and various exchange programmes involving foreign trips are suspended forthwith.”
He said the agency had also directed that the 2020 promotion exercise for staff scheduled to hold April 4 be suspended till further notice.
The regulatory agency urged all travelling public and other stakeholders to comply with all the directives issued to curb the spread of the global pandemic.
Meanwhile, it was gathered on Thursday night that the Federal Government was considering restricting all international flights into the country to only the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos and the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.
An official of one of the agencies told The PUNCH that the Federal Government would firm up the decision by Friday (today) after due consultation with stakeholders.