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AVIATION INDUSTRY TO ENJOY TWO-PRONGED PALLIATIVES FOR FAST POST COVID-19 RECOVERY – SIRIKA

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*As NAMA Boosts Its Search And Rescue Capacity With New Equipment

Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika has said following the losses suffered due to the closure of the airports for about three months, businesses in the aviation sector will be given opportunity to access a two-fold palliative from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Ministry of Finance and National Planning.

The minister who spoke in Abuja yesterday explained that the ministry was working on a two-pronged palliative for the sector.

“There are ones that we are organising through Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and that one is not for airlines alone. It is for the aviation industry, which includes travel agents, ground handling, catering, and of course, the agencies.

“So, the palliative is total. We are organising with CBN and it has been approved. They will apply for loan and the loan will be at five percent from 2021.

So, there is a template on how much they will apply for each business in aviation. So, everybody involved in the air economy is being looked out for in these palliatives.

Aviation Minister, Senator Hadi Sirika


He explained the second form of palliative would be “the one coming from the government through the Ministry of Finance and National Planning”. This, he however revealed, is still being worked out and would be made known “soon”.

Speaking further on the preparedness for flights resumption, the minister emphasised that aides to VIPs and other non travellers would not be allowed into the terminal building.

He said: “President Muhammadiu Buhari has approved the hitherto big men especially military men, ministers, NASS members, Judiciary, and governors are culprits in this. All their aides that are not traveling will not be permitted into the terminal building.”

Sirika said his ministry has given approval to Murtala Muhammed International Airport and Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport to commence domestic operations tomorrow.He explained that the approval was given after both airports passed the safety tests.

As part of plans made to curb the spread of COVID-19, the minister also disclosed that the last row in the cabin would be reserved and used as isolation space in case anybody exhibits COVID-19 symptoms while the flight is on.

He explained that cabin staff have been trained to carry out necessary precautions and protocols in case of any emergency.

Also, food or any form of refreshment will no longer be served onboard to reduce the level of contact between passengers and cabin staff.

On the seating arrangement, he said: “To maintain safe flight, civil aviation has ensured that the air within the cabin is filtered and circulated. Once you are in the aircraft, if there is space, we will space it and if there is no space, we will sit normally.

Because the wearing of masks and other protocols are all backed by science to ensure that we are safe, so also, our decision is backed by science and findings.

“Risk of contamination is highly reduced when you are in the cabin. As the cabin air is coming down into the cabin, it washes from up, down to the bottom and we are mostly facing front while sitting. Because we are all facing one direction and the airflow is from up to down and because of that, the chances of the viruses and bacteria gaining way to you are reduced.

“The air will be circulated about 30 to 35 times within one hour. So, it is safe to say that no matter how we sit, from the scientific viewpoint, we are safe in the aircraft cabin.

In another development, the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) has procured sophisticated search and rescue equipment to boost its aeronautical search and rescue capability across the airspace.

Its Managing Director, Captain Fola Akinkuotu, who made this known, said the equipment were being distributed among the nation’s rescue coordination centres in Lagos and Kano and Rescue subcentres in Abuja, Port Harcourt, Maiduguri, Enugu, Ilorin and Sokoto.

This includes plotting as well as communication facilities, medical supplies and International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) documents.

According to Akinkuotu, the plotting equipment include workstations for digital plotting and topographical maps for manual plotting.

The communication equipment, he added, include very high frequency (VHF) radios, high frequency (HF) radios, megaphones as well as Search and Rescue dedicated satellite telephones which can work outside a network area.

He listed others to include ICAO documents , IAMSAR Manual Volume 1,2 and 3 as well as Annex 12 Search and Rescue Preparation Manual.

Other items procured include multifunctional photocopiers, laptops, printers, professional torchlights, status boards, computer desktops and personal locator beacons.

Speaking on this development the Managing Director of NAMA Capt. Fola Akinkuotu said the agency took steps to procure the equipment in order enhance its preparedness and efficiency in Search and Rescue coordination in the event of any occurrence, especially given that the airports were about to be reopened to commercial activities.

“For instance the workstations which came with software applications for digital and faster plotting will aid our personnel in precisely locating where an incident or accident occurred,” he said.

Akinkuotu also revealed that in addition to the facility upgrade, the agency recently recruited experienced Search Mission Coordinators to be on 24 hours watch at both the Rescue Coordination Centers and Rescue Subcenters, saying that dedicated telephone numbers and email addresses of the above Search and Rescue centers have been published in the Aeronautical Information Publication (AIP).

“So, having beefed up the capacity of Search and Rescue unit at the two Rescue Coordination Centers and at the six Rescue Subcenters in the country, NAMA is more prepared than ever before in terms of human capacity as well as equipment upgrade.

“In the last few years the agency has trained different categories of critical personnel both in Nigeria and outside the country in Search and Rescue Coordinator courses in line with ICAO Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs),” the NAMA boss said.

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Hopes Rise For Vaccinated Travelers In Europe, But Global Restart Still Stalled Says IATA

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The International Air Transport Association (IATA) said it has welcomed the relaxation of COVID-19 border measures for vaccinated passengers, and the broader use of affordable antigen testing adopted by Spain and France this week. This is tempered by ongoing disappointment at the failure to implement harmonized measures across Europe and deep frustration at the lack of coordination among governments worldwide for a data-driven risk-managed approach to re-establishing the freedom to travel.

As of 7 June, Spain opened its borders to most vaccinated travelers from around the world and allowed EU travelers to enter the country with a negative antigen test. Furthermore, passengers coming from low-risk countries (including the UK) can enter without any restrictions, IATA said.

IATA also added that from 9 June France opened to vaccinated travelers from all but those countries assessed as “high risk”. Vaccinated travelers from “medium-risk” countries will need to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 antigen or PCR test, and unvaccinated people must still self-isolate for seven days.

“It’s encouraging to see more European countries taking steps to reopen borders. They recognize the opportunity created by vaccination and are making travel more affordable with the use of antigen testing. But this approach is not universal across the continent. Many European states have yet to significantly relax borders at all. This fragmentation should be replaced with a unified approach that is consistent with the recommendations of the EU to which they belong. People, businesses and economies would all benefit from greater alignment across Europe in relaxing measures and restoring the freedom to travel,” said Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General.

A consistent approach across Europe is required if the EU Digital COVID Certificate is to be implemented effectively by 1 July. And around the world, governments need to allow digital certificates to be integrated in passenger applications such as IATA Travel Pass, in order to relieve pressure on airports and at borders from more complex passenger processing as the number of travelers ramps up.

IATA Urges a More Global Approach

These moves by Spain, France and other European states are a step in the right direction, but restoring global connectivity requires far more than regional or individual state initiatives. The G20 endorsed a data-driven approach to managing the risks of COVID-19 while re-opening borders. The upcoming G7 Leaders’ Summit on 11-13 June provides an important opportunity for these governments to use their leadership to kick-start a data-driven coordinated approach to re-establishing global air connectivity, IATA stated.

“Connectivity needs countries at both ends of the journey to be open. Many of the world’s largest air travel markets, such Australia, China, the UK, Japan, and Canada remain essentially closed with no clear plans to guide a reopening. Data should help these and other countries to introduce targeted policies that keep populations safe while moving towards a normality in world with COVID-19 for some time to come. The G7 has an opportunity later this month to set a risk-managed framework for re-establishing the freedom to travel in a way that is both affordable and practical. It’s critical that they take up the challenge,” said Walsh.

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NIGERIA RECORDS ANOTHER MILESTONE, AS NIMET GRADUATES GAMBIAN TRAINEES

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Senator Hadi Sirika with the Gambian President HE Adama Barrow during the Minister's visit

The Federal Government through Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMet) will continue to support Gambia and other needy nations in the training of meteorological technicians to highlight the importance attached to the contribution of meteorology to sustainable socio-economic development, as well as safety of citizens.

The Honourable Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika stated this at the inaugural graduation ceremony of middle level meteorological technicians trained by the Nigeria Meteorological Agency (NiMet) held in Banjul, The Gambia.

He noted that “Aviation is a serious business with critical safety requirements and socio-economic impacts. Hence, personnel working on this sector must be highly skilled and competent”.

A statement by the Director, Public Affairs, Ministry of Aviation, James Odaudu quotes the Minister as saying that one of the instruments of the partnership was through the World Meteorological Organization Regional Training Centres and affiliated training institutes which W.M.O. encouraged member countries to close the gap through increased cooperation and collective partnership such as the ongoing one between Nigeria and Gambia.

Hadi Sirika disclosed that the Niigerian Meteorological Agency (Nimet) has done this due to huge support from Federal Government of Nigeria through the Ministry of Aviation via robust budgetary provisions. As most of the operational funding for the Agency were derived from allocation from the contributory service basket provided to the Aviation Industry by the Agencies under the ministry.
Sirika gave kudos to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) fir championing and supporting countries to effectively engage in Public Private Partnerships (PPP).

“This is because the future of service provision and user interface should effectively move from a linear type of value chain to an interactive environment where systems, data, solutions, and end users are iteratively engaged, and users are contributing significantly toinformation management and weather & climate service-level products. These will contribute to capabilities towards meeting global targets of the sustainable development goals”.

“This vision is realisable where regular meetings with vulnerable sectors to promote interaction and strengthen the provision and utilisation of meteorological services exist. As a strategy to further strengthen the expansion of weather and climate services to vulnerable sectors and the user community, NiMet therefore realizes that partnerships and engagement with the private sector cannot be overemphasized”.

The Nigerian Government, the Minister said, has the appropriate Legal Framework that enables the NiMet to participate in collaborative and effective Public-Private-Engagements (PPEs).

“In the phase of dwindling revenue by Governments worsened by the COVID￾19 pandemic, the importance of PPE cannot be overemphasised. Once, Trust has been established with appropriate legal document such as Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that is clear on the role of individual parties and sharing formula of all expected benefits, PPE is the way to go. This is another area; Nigeria can be of help”.

He equally commended the Government of The Gambia for taking the initiative to conceive the concept that led to the graduation ceremony, and the Minister of Fisheries and Water Resources for making excellent arrangements to ensure the success of the capacity development initiative.

“The presence of dignitaries here today is a testament to the critical value of the training programme and its impacts on the people and the developmental process in The Gambia. This goes to highlight the importance attached to contributions of meteorology to sustainable socio-economic development, as well as safety of citizens
of this great Country”

Senator Sirika, Prof Matazu (DG NiMet) and other members of the Nigerian delegation during a courtesy visit to President Adama Barrow in Banjul

On his part, the Minister, Ministry of Fisheries and Water Resources, Gambia Hon. James Furmus Peter Gomez, commended the Federal Government of Nigeria, saying the training partnership will further strengthen the cordial and fruitful bi-lateral ties that exists between the Department of Water Resources and NiMet and by extension the two countries.

“The challenge of improving the resilience of communities to climate vulnerabilities, risks and disasters is a key element in the strategies and solutions envisioned by the Government of The Gambia, as stated in the National Development Plan(NDP) as well as in both the Agriculture & Natural Resources and National Climate Change Policies. While the answer seems to be the existence of dedicated structures with an organizational system, the provision of adapted sectoral services to cope with extreme weather and climate risks is becoming increasingly important”

He added that Gambia authority noted the efforts Nigeria was making towards the capacity development of its personnel in fundamental aspects of meteorological observations and forecasting, as well as quality management system, all geared towards meeting the standard set by WMO and ICAO.

“On behalf of the Government and People of the Republic of The Gambia, I once again extend our sincere appreciation and gratitude to the Government of Federal Republic of Nigeria for the bi-lateral assistance it has been rendering in many ways to help improve the standard of the Meteorological servicesin The Gambia. We particularly note the efforts you have been making towards the capacity development of our personnel in fundamental aspects of meteorological observations and forecasting, as well as quality management system, all geared towards meeting the standard set by World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)”.

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Vacation In America: Planes are filling up and tickets are very expensive

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By Chris Isidore, CNN Business

– Americans making summer vacation plans are about to find airfare costs are near or even above pre-pandemic levels, according to the nation’s major airlines.
Executives from most of the major carriers said the recovery in domestic leisure travel is already here. That means yields, which measure how much passengers pay for every mile traveled, are up more than the airlines had been forecasting.
“Domestic leisure [travel] will be 100% restored by June, with … bookings ahead of 2019 levels and yields essentially recovered,” said Glen Hauenstein, president of Delta Air Lines, speaking at the Wolfe Research conference.
The airlines are being cautious about bringing back too much supply of flights too quickly, especially since the leisure fares booked well in advance of travel are not as lucrative as the business travel booked at the last minute. Business travel and international travel have yet to come back, although airlines said they’re seeing signs of a future recovery there as well.
United, which is due to speak at the conference later in the day, said in a filing that overall yields on tickets booked this month for travel in May and June are already near 2019 levels. That’s even with reduced demand for business travel — so it means that domestic leisure yields are already ahead of what was booked in 2019.
Profitability and the business travel problems
This doesn’t mean the airlines are back to being profitable, although several have said they have stopped burning through the cash the way they did for most of 2020 and early 2021.
It’s tough to be profitable with just domestic leisure travelers, said Philip Baggaley, chief credit analyst covering airlines for Standard & Poor’s. Yet getting this part of their business back is still important.
“There certainly has been a surge in domestic leisure bookings, and the yields they’ve been able to achieve,” he said. “They’re not filling up as much of the plane, but in a very large and important part of their business, they’re doing just fine.”
The airlines expect business travel will start to return once offices that had employees working remotely begin to reopen. It didn’t make sense, of course, to schedule business trips if the customer whom a business traveler wants to meet with hasn’t yet returned to an office.
“We still anticipate business travel returns in the fall and beyond,” said Vasu Raja, chief revenue officer at American. “Many corporations are at the nascent stages of coming back to the office.”
That’s why airlines won’t be back to the same number of flights this summer as they offered in the summer of 2019 before the pandemic. But they’re seeing strong demand for the seats they are offering, thanks to vacation travelers’ pent-up demand.
“Right now…the only thing that is keeping us from being at 2019 booking levels is where is we’re constricting supply,” said Raja.
The bad news for the vacation travelers is good news for the airlines and their investors. Shares of American, Delta, United and most other US airlines were up between 2% and 3% in midday trading.
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