Ahead of resumption of flights following the closure precipitated by the Coronavirus outbreak, local airlines yesterday said operations had been reduced by 60 per cent and in-flight catering scrapped as part of measures to cope with the crisis.
The development, experts noted, was expected given the slow restart that awaits aviation business, longer recovery process and the dire financial position of all the airlines.
In a related development, Director General of Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Mr Musa Nuhu, reiterated that Federal Government was working on a bailout for the operators.
Speaking at a webinar forum, chairman of Air Peace airline, Mr Allen Onyema, pointed out that the pandemic was more devastating than 9/11, adding that a lot of measures had to come to place as a way of mitigating its effects on businesses.
He said his organisation had to stop in-flight cookery going forward, and would not deploy all its aircraft in addition to a 60 per cent downsizing of the workforce.
Onyema regretted that the airline that was operating 110 flights daily had reduced the tally to 42 before the lockdown, adding that so many sacrifices would have to be made by employers and employees for business to continue.
His words: “This Covid-19 has brought a lot of new normals. It will affect the entire value chain; passenger figures are going to shrink, and 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 onboard. Air Peace will not serve meals again. We are going to downsize because the passengers will no longer be there. We are going to deploy four out of the seven 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 per cent, and it is 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 rebounds, you bring them back gradually. Airlines can stagger the payment of debts in agreement with the company they owe and NCAA has to be more proactive.”
Besides, Nuhu said all the heads of aviation parastatals were recently summoned to a meeting to map out ways of developing economic stimulus package for the sector. He, however, said the bailout would not be limited to the airlines alone, but also the agencies and ground handling companies.
In his remarks, Managing Director of Aero Contractors, Mr Ado Sanusi, expressed confidence that the industry would rebound just as it did after the 9/11 and Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) periods. He nonetheless called for mergers and acquisitions of airlines, describing it as one of the ways forward for the sector.
“There will be code-sharing. I believe that acquisition and mergers would usher in an industry that will weather the storm. It may not be exactly the same as in the banking sector, but we may go this way,” Sanusi urged.