The Federal Government has announced that it would perform a simulation trial of domestic flight operations at the Murtala Muhammed Airport in Lagos on Saturday as it plans to reopen the country’s airspace to commercial flights.

It also promised Nigerians that airfares would be moderately priced despite speculations based on plans to begin social distancing onboard flights.

This is as the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority revealed that it would submit the aviation restart plan to the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 on Wednesday.

The Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, while speaking at Monday’s briefing of the PTF in Abuja, allayed concerns about a possible hike in airfares when commercial flights resume.

“Well, that (airfare hike) may not necessarily be the case, because as I speak to you, day in day out, we’ve been meeting with stakeholders in the industry to find out how best to open the industry,” he said.

He added, “So we are doing everything to ensure that tickets’ prices are not skyrocketed. They may be different but they will not be something that passengers cannot afford.”

“Flight trials will be demonstrated on Saturday in Lagos airport ahead of the resumption of operations.”

Also, the Director-General, NCAA, Capt. Musa Nuhu stated during a stakeholders’ forum that the aviation sector restart plan would be submitted to the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 on Wednesday, June 24.

“We are yet to get there but we are pretty close. The plan is that by Wednesday, we will submit our report to the PTF. I reiterate, we are pretty close,” he stated.

Nuhu remarked that the authority did not need to have all the airlines, airports or the ground handlers ready before it restarts the system.

He also stated that the non-operation of commercial flights had reduced the authority’s revenue by 90 to 95 per cent.

He said, “We are almost ready. Like I said earlier, not all the airlines and airports have to be necessarily ready before the restart. If anything goes wrong, the NCAA will be held responsible.

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“Sometime this week, the proposed restart date will be made known. If the airports get it right, the airlines’ job will be made easier. The airlines that have disinfected their aircraft should show proof to NCAA.”

The Chairman, NCAA COVID-19 Committee, Godwin Balang, said the authority had to develop aviation restart guidelines on uncharted grounds, adding that it issued regulations in compliance with the International Civil Aviation Organisation Standard and Recommended Practices.

Balang said, “Restart and recovery guidelines are based on 10 key principles which are to protect people in harmonised but flexible measures; work as one aviation team and show solidarity.”

Others, according to him, ensure essential connectivity; manage safety, security and health-related risks; and make aviation public health measures work with aviation safety and security systems; etc.

This came as the Area Manager, West Africa for the International Air Transport Association, Samson Fatokun, announced free training offer to the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria in order to assist FAAN with IATA’s expertise.

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