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.
After 35 years of the last amendment in 1986 to the ground handling rates in Nigeria, succour has finally come the way of ground handlers as the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA through the Ministry of Aviation approved a safety threshold charges for handlers.
With this approval, NAHCO SAHCO, PAHCOL and Swissport Handling Company, can now charge the same handling rates as their counterparts in the sub-African countries.
The new rates are to commence October 1, 2021 for international carriers and January 1, 2022 for domestic operators.
The rates approved are between $1,500 and $5,000 (passenger and cargo flights) for handlers for a narrow and wide body aircraft, respectively, while for domestic operators will now pay between N20,000 and N70,000, depending on the aircraft type.
The aircraft type are: Narrow body aircraft include Boeing B737, Airbus A320, ER 135 and ATR, while wide body aircraft are B767, A330, B777, B747 and B787.
The approval for the new charges was communicated to all foreign and local airlines accountable managers and country managers in a circular signed by the Director General, NCAA, Capt. Musa Nuhu dated September 6, 2021.
The circular with the subject: “Safety Threshold Ground Handling Charges,” read in part: “All stakeholders are invited to note that the new ground handling rates for international and domestic operations will become effective on 1st October, 2021 and 1st January, 2022, respectively.
“All stakeholders are directed to ensure full compliance with the safety threshold ground handling charges. Any change to these charges must be done in formal consultation with and approval of NCAA. Please be guided accordingly.”
The Chairman, Aviation Ground Handling Association of Nigeria, AGHAN, Mr. Olaniyi Adigun said, the Minister of Aviation and the NCAA have saved them from extinction, adding that, the income derived from their operations with the current rates was no longer sustainable.
“Dollars have gone up and these equipment are foreign; 80 per cent of our training is foreign and to cap it all, aviation industry is global. Low control is global anywhere in the world; the same training and requirements for Africa and anywhere in the world. Most of what we do require dollars and for you to even operate in this sector, you must be certificated, which can only be achieved through training”.
According to him, with this new development, the handlers would be able to provide quality, efficient and safe service delivery to our clients and compete with any service provider and gradually acquire modern equipment that can facilitate handling.
“If the industry is booming, more foreign investments will be encouraged to come in and participate. The more we have investors, the more capital we have for the country. So, it’s a win-win situation in terms of having quality service delivery; to the government, it will be able to derive more revenues from the sector”.
“Just as we all know, the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic, affected government revenues. We all know that the Federal Government through its agencies get 5 per cent from our annual revenue. Before the new regime, an operation that cost $4,000 elsewhere, we were doing it at $400. At $4,000, the government’s 5 per cent is about $200 and that is what Ghanaian government gets for instance, while the Nigerian Government is getting just $20. Look at the disparity. That is a lot of capital flight out of the country”, he added.
“With the old regime, government was losing money, the service provider was losing money and with this, we could not attract quality staff, carry out efficient training. But, right now, we are on the right track”.
Mr. Ahmed Bashir, Vice Chairman, AGHAN, noted that, the new rates would ensure stability and financial stability for the handlers and would lead to more employment creation and increase in staffers welfare
“We will be able to recruit more Nigerians and increase the welfare of our staff. It will also ensure that we have better and modern equipment, develop our capacity. We will be able to initiate modern trainings and all these are cost effective. And, some of the training are not even conducted here in Nigeria”.
“Just as we all know, aviation is internationally regulated and not local. You have to consistently acquire new knowledge and ideas so that our personnel can be able to compete all over the world. All these are tailored towards ensuring safety in the industry”.
Bashir said, this approval was worth commending after 35 years of the last amendment, saying that, the Minister of aviation and the NCAA should be applauded for this feat.
“The hold rates have been on since 1986, which is about 35 years ago and it has remained static ever since. You can imagine that. And for the minister to have supported our course, it shows he loves the industry and he has been able to save the sector from collapse and history will never forget him as someone who has initiated sustainability and financial health of the sub-sector”.
“The Minister of Aviation’s vision has always been a safer sky for Nigeria and to ensure that safety, the ground handlers are integral part of that vision. Everything that you see that we have achieved, we give credit to the minister because the minister has acted as a father to all. It is through his vision that we achieved stability in the industry. He has brought in innovative ideas that helped to transform the industry”.
He thanked the regulator, Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) for reviewing the current safety threshold handling rates and ensure compliance with the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the International Civil Aviation Organiusation (ICAO) Safety and other international bodies.
“So, in order to ensure that the ground handlers are financially stronger and remain as a critical component of the industry, NCAA tried to ensure that the industry doesn’t collapse. The fact is that without the ground handlers, NCAA will also be out of business”.
“We will like to thank NCAA for their leadership, which supported and encouraged and supported us. Their leadership actually ensured that economic regulation is about the ground handling companies. So, we have to be financially stronger to be able to recruit and retain quality manpower. The sub-sector is about the manpower and equipment”.
AGHAN also appreciated stakeholders in the industry for speaking up for the ground handlers.
“We want to thank the managements of the ground handling companies who supported and trusted us to be able to go this far. Also, we want to laud the various critical stakeholders and professionals in the industry who actually craved for this safety threshold handling charges. For every project you want to embark upon, you need to get the strategy right”.
In consonance with the avowed resolve by the Aviation Ministry to give a shot in the arm to aviation infrastructure nationwide, the Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Abubakar Sirika, has again waded through the eye of the needle to secure at Wednesday’s Federal Executive Council, FEC, meeting, the sum of N6,386,996,442.29K
for the award of contracts to improve some of the decaying and dilapidated infrastructures at the airports.
According to the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, who addressed the Press Corps on behalf of the Aviation Minister, at the Aso Villa after the FEC meeting, enunciated that the Ministry of Aviation brought a memo for the approval of the award of contracts for the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, MMIA, Ikeja, Lagos; Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, NAIA, Abuja; Malam Aminu Kano International Airport, MAKIA, Kano; and Katsina Airport in Katsina.
This is contained in an electronic statement by the Director, Public Affairs Ministry of Aviation, James Odaudu to journalists in Abuja and Lagos.
Mr President’s spokesperson who offered a tacit explanation said the sum of N2,817,579,271.99K, approved by FEC was for the expansion of the MMIA terminal 1, the General Aviation Terminal, GAT, in Ikeja, Lagos.
Femi Adesina said further that the second item on the approval gotten was for the expansion of the Apron in Katsina Airport and the sum of N527,353,693.12K, was approved for the contract.
Another item on the approval mentioned by Adesina was for the expansion of Cargo Apron at the MMIA in Lagos. He explained that “there was also the expansion of Lagos Cargo Apron Area awarded at N1,982,943,242.81k.
Other beneficiaries according to Adesina were the domestic wing of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport and the Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano.
The President’s Media and Publicity Adviser said the sum of N795,976,947.94K, was approved as a contract sum for the expansion of the Abuja Domestic Apron Area
He also revealed that for the expansion of MAKIA, Kano, Apron Area, the sum of N1,059,120,234.37K, was approved as the contract sum to bring it up to global standard.
SUCCINCTLY put, the following four terminals got approval for the following projects:
** EXPANSION OF GAT BUILDING LAGOS -: N2,817,579,271.99K
** EXPANSION OF KATSINA AIRPORT APRON-: N527,353,693.12K
** EXPANSION OF MMIA CARGO APRON-: N1,982,943,242.81K
** EXPANSION OF MAKIA, KANO, APRON-: N1,059,120,234.37.s
GRAND TOTAL-: N6,386,996,442.29