FG working on stimulus plan for airlines

NCAA Director General, Captain Musa Nuhu says airlines bail out coming
NCAA Director General, Captain Musa Nuhu

The Director General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Captain Musa Nuhu on Thursday disclosed said the federal government is working on a bail out for local airlines, ground handling companies and aviation agencies post Covid-19.

He said Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika a few days ago presented a case for this to Presidency.

Disclosing this at an Aviation Webinar on ‘Flying Into Turbulent Skies, Safely Navigating Covid-19 Headwinds: Survival Strategies For Nigerian Aviation’ , organised by AELEX, Nuhu said the heads of aviation parastatals were summoned to a meeting some weeks ago to map out ways of developing economic stimulus package for the sector.

He said the package will not be limited to the airlines alone but the agencies and ground handling companies.

“We have made consultations and we are still consulting, we have consulted with airlines, we plan to have another consultation with them and the ground handlers, we are developing a programme for an economic stimulus package, all inclusive, all the heads of agencies were recently locked up in a hotel in Abuja including the Minister to map out ways of getting stimulus for the sector. The minister presented a very good case on this with the Vice President”, he said.

He noted that air transportation is very critical to a national economic growth.

He noted that the sector may not be the same many years to come, adding that two major issues the NCAA is looking at and will look at after resumption of flight are Airworthiness and Health Protocols.

He said there is need to ensure proper procedures are in place in Nigeria, and those that will be in tandem with global standards too.

“We need to ensure that we have procedures in place, we need to look at two major issues: Airworthiness and Health Protocols, we have developed some guidelines in conjunction with the Nigerian Control for Disease Control (NCDC), we still have some issues on crew quarantine, we have agreed on certain protocols for Nigerian airlines so that when they fly out and come back, the crew don’t have to be quarantined”.

“We have consulted with the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) extensively to ensure that all we are doing is globally acceptable”, he said

He urged stakeholders to look at the period as an opportunity to re-invent the sector, adding that the aviation industry has changed forever.

“This opportunity provides an excellent period for cargo operations, the sector has changed forever and the NCAA has a significant role to play, the industry needs to think out of the box”, he added.

The chairman of Air Peace, Allen Onyema and the Director General of Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC), Tunde Irukera, canvassed elimination of in-flight catering as one of the ways to reduce operating cost after resumption.

According to Onyema, Covid-19 pandemic is more devastating than 9/11, adding that a lot of measures have to come to place as a way of mitigating the effect on businesses.

Air Peace, for instance, he said has decided to stop in-flight catering going forward and will not deploy all its aircraft for operations as it has also decided to downsize workforce by 60 percent.

He said his airline that was operating 110 flights per day had reduced to 42 flights in a day before the lockdown, adding that a lot sacrifices would have to be made by employees and staff if the business must continue.

“This Covid-19 has brought a lot of new normal, it will affect the entire value chain, passenger figures are going to shrink, a new set of regulations will emerge.

And this is not about individual airline, we need to shun unhealthy competition, airlines need to stop serving food on-board, Air Peace will not serve meals again. We are going to downsize because the passengers will no longer be there, we going to deploy four out of the 7 B737 aircraft and six out of the Embraer fleet.

“Lagos- Abuja is no longer going to be every hour, we are downsizing to about 60 percent and it advisable that every airline must operate according to its strength.

The staff must understand that sacrifices must be made, it may not be total sack because as operation rebound, you bring them back gradually.

Airlines can stagger the payment of debts in agreement with the company they are owing and NCAA has to be more proactive”, he added.

Also speaking, Captain Ado Sanusi, Managing director, Aero Contractors expressed confidence that the sector would rebound just as it did after 9/11 and Ebola virus phenomena.

He, however , called for mergers and acquisitions, saying this is one of the way forward for the sector.

“There will be code-sharing, I believed that acquisition and merges will usher in an industry that will weather the storm. It may not be exactly the same as in the banking, but we may go this way. It is time for us to reflect. I am very confident.”

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