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NEWSMAN, Abuja – The cost of air tickets along several routes have doubled due to the high demand for air travel in light of the rising insecurity in the country and cost of flight operations.

Checks on several airline websites showed that even intending passengers who booked their flights days ahead of departure were also affected.

A check on Friday on the website of Max Air showed that a one-way ticket from Maiduguri to Lagos for Saturday was put at N100,000 while the same flight costs N70,000 for Monday.

A flight from Kano to Abuja on Azman Air on Friday was put at N85,000; the same route for Saturday was put at N61,000.

A flight from Lagos to Abuja via Max Air on Monday was put at N80,000 while the same flight on Aero was fixed at N107,000.

Travelling to Kano State from Lagos on Arik Air on Saturday, cost about N70,618 while the flight would cost N65,564 for the same route on Tuesday.

It was also observed that the Lagos-Port Harcourt route, which is one of the busiest in the country, had also been affected.

A check on Arik Air’s website on Friday showed that there were no available seats till Monday and the price for the four available seats was fixed at N52, 868 each for afternoon flight and at N57,045 for morning.

Overland Airways which travels less busy routes with its much smaller aircraft also hiked its ticket prices.

Ilorin to Abuja flight was put at N56,000 on Saturday and N61, 500 on Sunday; the same route was put at a cost of N56,000 on Tuesday and N52,500 on Wednesday.

The increase in the air tickets caused a debate on social media last week as several Nigerians lamented how they had to part with large sums of money to purchase tickets, PUNCH reported.

Confirming the increments on Friday, the Managing Director of Aero Contractors, Captain Ado Sanusi, said airlines could not access foreign exchange at the official rate while the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria had increased its fees.

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NEWSMAN – China has barred non-Chinese travellers from the United Kingdom, Belgium and the Philippines, imposing new border restrictions in response to the worsening Covid-19 pandemic.

The Chinese embassy in the UK said recently that China’s borders are now closed to those arriving from the UK, including those with valid visas and residence permits.

The measure, a reversal of recently loosened restrictions, comes as England began a month-long lockdown in an effort to stop a resurgent outbreak. The country has the highest death toll in Europe of almost 48,000 deaths.

“This is a temporary measure taken by China in response to the current pandemic,” the Chinese embassy in the UK said.

The embassy in Belgium also released a statement announcing restrictions for nationals traveling from Belgium, which has the highest per capita number of cases in Europe, The Guardian of London reported.

Last Thursday, the embassy in the Philippines, which has among the largest number of cases in South-east Asia, followed suit.

The notices said the new restrictions would not affect those with diplomatic, official or courtesy visas or crewmembers of international flights, trains or other vessels.

Beijing, which has for months largely contained the outbreak and seen the Chinese economy begin to recover, also imposed new rules on those who are allowed in.

As of last Friday, all passengers from the US, Germany, the Czech Republic and France must have tested negative for the Covid-19 virus as well as for antibodies within 48 hours of travelling.

Passengers from Denmark are subject to the rule from November 7, while starting from November 8, those travelling from Australia, Singapore and Japan would be subject to the same rule.

Officials have said that the antibody test was to guard against false negatives in nucleic acid tests. A negative test for the antibody immunoglobulin M, or IgM, the body’s first response to the virus, would indicate that a person has never been exposed or that they have been infected and recovered.

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NEWSMAN, Abuja – Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, has cautioned members of the Airlines Operators of Nigeria (AON) against accusing his ministry and aviation regulatory agencies for the unfavourable operating environment and decline in their profits.

Sirika gave the caution at the Senate during the closing session of a three-day public hearing on the six executive bills to restructure the aviation sector.

The minister was reacting to claims by the AON that unfavourable business environment was caused by poor government policies as they affect the sector.

Chairman, Chief Executive Officer of Overland Airways, Captain Edward Boyo, had in his presentation held the aviation regulatory agencies responsible for the woes of the operators.

Boyo said the Nigerian Civil Aviation Agency was charging exorbitant fees.

He said undue taxation by NCAA in connivance with the Ministry of Aviation was responsible for high aviation fare while the agency was indifferent to standards and efficiency.

He warned that the local airlines were victims of obsolete legislation and further sought for protection of the parliament through positive legislations to prevent local airlines operators from going into extinction, PUNCH reported.

The aviation minister however attributed the decline in fortunes of the indigenous airline operators to poor capital outlay, business plans and governance structure.

“The airports must be run for profit, not charity. To explain why the airlines are failing are business plans and failure of their CEOs; you don’t blame their inefficiency on us”, he said.

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NEWSMAN, Abuja – Federal Government, has announced that 10 new airports were under construction nationwide, and that national carrier will begin operation next year.

Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, who disclosed this during the defence of the 2021 budgetary allocation to his ministry before the Senate Committee on Aviation, said the establishment of the national carrier would be carried out in partnership with the private sector.

“In 2021, the sum of N78.960 billion is being proposed for capital expenditure at the headquarters in the aviation ministry and the emphasis will focus on the implementation of the Aviation Roadmap as directed by Mr. President. The roadmap would be implemented through Public Private Partnership (PPP), topmost of which will be the establishment of a national carrier,” Sirika said.

“This government, right from inception in 2015, has been planning and strategising on how to resuscitate national carrier for Nigeria as far as global air transportation is concerned. The plan, going by what is on ground now, will be actualised next year through the PPP arrangement,” he said.

Minister Sirika said 10 new airports would come up in the country in states like Benue, Ekiti, Nasarawa, Yobe, in addition others taken over by the Federal Government, namely Gombe, Kebbi, Dutse, and Zuru airports.

The Senate Committee on Aviation, however, frowned on the state of disrepair of Ilorin, Minna and Makurdi airports. Sirika explained that the Aviation Roadmap that was unveiled in 2016 would get good attention in the 2021 budget, with the national carrier, already christened Nigeria Air, taking the lead.

According to Sirika, other projects to be executed, are establishment of Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRC) facility, Agro-Allied Cargo Infrastructure, Aviation Leasing Company, Search and Rescue Unit and Aerospace University with the support of International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).

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NEWSMAN, Abuja – As the National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers (NAAPE) embark on an industrial strike action from August 3rd to press home their demand for equitable salary remuneration, more airlines are seen laying off workers as they blamed the decision on the biting impact of COVID-19.

Bristow Helicopters on Tuesday announced a decision to sack 100 pilots and engineers over the next few weeks.

“The spread of the COVID-19 virus has severely impacted all sectors in the aviation industry including our market, which primarily serves the Nigerian oil and gas sector. Accordingly, and with much regret, the company has taken the very difficult decision to release over 100 pilots and engineers (both national and expatriates) over the next couple of weeks.” Bristow said in a statement.

The airline noted that the decision was difficult but final.

It said those to be affected by the decision would be paid redundancy packages after an agreement must have been reached with the National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers.

The National Vice President of NAAPE, Yakubu Dukas, also confirmed the development, vowing to fight the decision, PUNCH reported.

Similarly, Sources say Air Peace has sacked about 70 pilots and implemented up to 40%pay cut in a bid confirmed the termination of some of its pilots contracts across its fleet.

“The airline cannot afford to toe the path of being unable to continue to fulfil its financial obligations to its staff, external vendors, aviation agencies, maintenance organisations, insurance companies, banks and other creditors hence the decision to restructure its entire operations with a view to surviving the times. This decision was taken for the greater good of the company and its almost 3000 workforce, the affected pilots inclusive”, Airpeace Spokesman, Stanley Olisa, explained in a statement.

Meanwhile President of NAAPE, Abednego Galadima, has vowed to resist the termination of employment of the pilots by the management of Air Peace, insisting that due process was not followed by the carrier in carrying out the exercise.

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NEWSMAN, Abuja – Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika on Wednesday announced that the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja and Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos will resume full domestic operations on July 8th, one week from now.

Sirika in a statement on Twitter announced that other airports such as “Kano, Port Harcourt, Owerri & Maiduguri to resume on the 11th”, the aviation minister said.

The Abuja and Lagos airports had in the past one week been undergoing fumigation, test flights and reconfiguration in preparation for resumption of domestic flight operations.

Robots were also introduced at the Abuja Airport on Saturday to help in checking the temperatures of passengers and guiding them, a first in any Nigerian airport.

The Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 has on Monday announced that President Muhammadu Buhari had approved the lifting of ban on local flights and interstate movement, Chairman of the PTF, Boss Mustapha had announced at a briefing in Abuja.

Nigerians currently await when the ban on international air travel will also be lifted.