Mask In The Air: The New Normal and Planned Reopening of Airports in Nigeria
A major characteristic of humans is the need for physical and social interaction, movement and migration across the world. Migration appeals to and benefits not only humans but also their businesses and economies in general. Without the free interaction and movement of people, the benefits of globalisation, economies of scale, international trade, tourism and general economic activities will be impacted negatively.
Unfortunately, this is the significant impact of COVID-19 on the aviation industry by the restriction in the physical interaction and movement of people, goods and services across national and international borders. This has stifled the aviation industry; causing huge losses to airline operators and regulators. The Aviation industry globally is going through an unprecedented crisis. According to Peter Cerda, IATA’s Regional Vice President for the Americas, the predicted losses in revenue for the industry have been calculated at about US$113 billion across the globe. Additionally, the pandemic has reversed the growth that was being recorded in the industry at the beginning of 2020, placing over 25 million aviation-related jobs at risk.
Whilst the aviation industry in Nigeria is not yet at full maturity, it is undoubtedly at its growth stage. Unfortunately, the pandemic has stifled the growth of the industry owing to the restriction in movement and variety of lockdowns for three months from March 2020 till date. According to the Nigerian Minister of Aviation, the monthly loss to the industry is estimated at N21Billion.
Nigerian Airlines have had to park their aircraft off runways for the past three months, with the attendant challenge of the necessary maintenance required for even stagnant aircrafts. Clearly, with the financial stress that most of these airlines are currently experiencing, not many would have been able to keep up with this category of maintenance, creating an even greater financial stress to get their aircrafts airborne again.
Some airlines have sent their pilots, crew and staff home temporarily and in some cases permanently by total disengagement. This is not peculiar to Nigeria and has been even more catastrophic with the large global carriers who have let thousands of their staff go.
Airports are also not left out. Not all airports in Nigeria will survive the scrutiny of the Federal Aviation Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and National Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) to re-open due to their aggressive intention to achieve global standards under COVID-19 guidelines and aviation protocols. This will be important if the eventual opening of our international aviation borders are acceptable enough to attract global carriers back to our airports.
Apart from the already incurred financial and operational losses, there is also the potential loss of customers due to safety concerns concerning the COVID virus. It is a trying time for the aviation industry.