Nigerian Airlines Lose 3.5m Passengers, $760m Revenue to COVID-19 - IATA

3 April 2020

International Air Transport Association (IATA) has said Nigerian airlines have airlifted 3.5 million fewer passengers resulting in a $760 million revenue loss since the onset of the disruptions caused by COVID-19 pandemic.

The fallout of the setback would endanger 91,380 jobs and $650 million contribution to the Nigerian economy, the associations stated in a statement obtained yesterday by THISDAY.

The pandemic has also prompted the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) to suspend the issuance and processing of Air Operating Certificate (AOC) and other related certificates to aviation personnel.

IATA, therefore, reiterated its call for urgent action from governments in Africa and the Middle East to provide financial relief to airlines as the latest IATA analysis indicated that the two regions' airlines have potentially lost $23 billion.

IATA said African airlines lost about $4 billion, while Middle East airlines lost $19 billion, which translates into a drop of industry revenues by 32 per cent for Africa and 39 per cent for the Middle East for 2020 as compared to 2019.

Its breakdown showed that Ethiopia airlifted 1.6 million fewer passengers resulting in a $0.3 billion revenue loss, risking 327,062 jobs and $1.2 billion in contribution to Ethiopia's economy, while Kenya airlifted 2.5 million fewer passengers resulting in a $0.54 billion revenue loss, risking 137,965 jobs and $1.1 billion in contribution to Kenya's economy.

IATA's Regional Vice President for Africa and the Middle East, Mr. Muhammad Al Bakri, said to minimise the broad damage that these losses would have across the African and Middle East economies, it was vital that governments step up efforts to aid the industry.

"Many governments in the region have committed to provide relief from the effect of COVID-19. And some have already taken direct action to support aviation, including the United Arab Emirates and Qatar. But more help is needed. IATA is calling for a mixture of direct financial support, loans, loan guarantees and support for the corporate bond market tax relief," the association stated.

IATA said it was also starting to see governments in the region providing some financial and tax reliefs, including deferral of aircraft lease payments by the government of Cabo Verde, an extension of VAT refund payment dates in Saudi Arabia and positive considerations for financial relief from governments across the region including Jordan, Rwanda, Angola and the UAE.

"The air transport industry is an economic engine, supporting up to 8.6 million jobs across Africa and the Middle East and $186 billion in GDP. Every job created in the aviation industry supports another 24 jobs in the wider economy.

"Governments must recognise the vital importance of the air transport industry and that support is urgently needed. Airlines are fighting for survival in every corner of the world. Travel restrictions and evaporating demand mean that, aside from cargo, there is almost no passenger business. Failure by governments to act now will make this crisis longer and more painful. Airlines have demonstrated their value in economic and social development in Africa and the Middle East and governments need to prioritise them in rescue packages. Healthy airlines will be essential to jump-start the Middle East and global economies post-crisis," IATA said.

NCAA Suspends Issuance of Certificates to Airlines, Pilots

Meanwhile, NCAA has suspended the issuance and processing of AOC and other related certificates as a result of the increasing spread of COVID-19.

AOC is the approval given to airlines for them to carry on flight operations and NCAA also issues certificates to pilots, engineers, cabin crew and others for them to carry on their professional activities.

In a letter dated April 1 and signed by NCAA Director-General, Captain Musa Nuhu, told industry stakeholders that aircraft or facility inspections and operational audits paid for by airlines remained suspended until June 30.

It added that no applications or ongoing applications shall be processed during this period for AOC, Approved Maintenance Organisations (AMO), Aircraft Type Certificate Acceptance, Aircraft Registration and Related Matters, Modifications and Repairs, Airworthiness Certificates, Maintenance Clearance Certificates (MCC) amongst others.

The letter said all existing operators intending to renew their approval certificates and Aircraft Maintenance Clearance Certificates must submit applications and proof of payment electronically, adding that NCAA would conduct desktop evaluations of document and request additional evidence or documents where necessary.

The letter stated that no applications for extensions of maintenance intervals shall be considered during the period, except for essential and emergency flights approved by the Minister of Aviation.

According to the letter, inspections, checks and audits paid for by clients are suspended until further notice.

For the validity of personnel licences, NCAA stated that no new aviation personnel licences would be processed or issued during the lockdown.

"All personnel whose licences are due to expire after April 1 can exercise the privileges of their licences for an extended period of up to June 30. This applies to pilots, air traffic controllers, cabin crew, aircraft maintenance engineer, flight dispatchers, aeronautical station operators, air traffic safety electronics personnel and designated examiners. Medical certificates will be extended for a period of up to June 30," the letter stated.

Meanwhile, the House Committee Chairman on Aviation, Hon. Nnolim Nnaji, has appealed to airlines and private organisations within the aviation sector not to abandon their staff in this period of uncertainties occasioned by the pandemic.

Nnaji, who represents Nkanu East/West Federal Constituency of Enugu State, said he was disturbed by the memo issued to its staff by Max Air to the effect that it would not pay its workers' salaries during the two-week lockdown directive by the federal government.

"The memo, which has now gone viral, further stressed that the state of no-pay would extend if the situation persists and my major worry is that other organisations in the sector may do the same if care is not taken," he said.

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