Thursday, October 6Inside Business Africa

Airlines okay flexible measures against total shutdown

Global airlines have welcomed decisions taken by aviation regulators in some countries to provide flexible measures to airlines and flight crew against total shutdown during the coronavirus crisis.

In Nigeria for instance, the regulatory body has created window for flights essential services to use the airspace despite restriction to all commercial carriers beginning from today.

In a related development, Emirates Group, consisting Emirates Airline and dnata, and Kenya Airways have re-adjusted their business worldwide as the airlines will temporarily suspend international operations by Wednesday, March 25, 2020.

Commending the flexible measures, the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) Senior Vice President, Safety and Flight Operations, Gilberto Lopez Meyer, yesterday admitted safety remains the industry’s top priority, and countries have a well-established licensing system to ensure this.

“Airlines and their employees are facing an unprecedented challenge in coping with the business and operational impacts of the covid-19 crisis. In this extraordinarily difficult environment, we are grateful for actions to ease regulatory requirements that do not impact the safety of flights,” Meyer said.

The Federal Government recently directed the closure of Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos and the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, as part of fresh measures to contain the rampaging coronavirus disease.

The Director-General of Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Capt Musa Nuhu, stated that the shutdown shall last till April 23, 2020.

He said, henceforth, “all airports in Nigeria are closed to all incoming international flights with the exception of emergency and essential flights”, adding that domestic flights will continue normal operations at all airports.

The NCAA chief directed all airlines to ensure that they submit passenger manifest to Port Health authorities prior to arrival of flights into Nigeria.

The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) also published templates, which may be used by state regulators to notify EASA of the use of flexibility provisions. This allows for the extension to the validity periods for licences, ratings, endorsements, certificates and attestations of aircrew, instructors, examiners, aircraft maintenance licence holders and air traffic controllers as well as extension of Airworthiness Review Certificates.

The United Arab Emirates General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) has published a Decision allowing for flexibility to the validity periods for licenses, ratings, and certificates applicable to Flight Crew and Cabin Crew.

Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) has recognized the need for flexibility in the delivery of classroom training and for the completion of recurrent training requirements. They have also granted the ability to extend the validity periods to some elements of training applicable to pilots, engineers, cabin crew and dispatchers.

The UK Civil Aviation Authority has put a process in place to allow an extension to the validity of pilot and cabin crew requirements.

In Mexico, the Agencia Federal de Aviación Civil, (AFAC) is extending the validity of permits, licenses and/or certificates for technical personnel for three months.

“Aviation is built on partnership and working together. The actions taken by these regulators will provide airlines and licensed crew with the necessary flexibility for licence extensions without compromising safety. We urge others to quickly follow suit and grant similar short-term relief,” said Lopez Meyer.

IATA is also offering help for airlines whose IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) cannot be performed owing to COVID-19 travel restrictions that make it impossible for auditors to visit airlines, or because of other circumstances related to the current crisis.

Extensions of IOSA audits are being offered for periods of up to six months; however airlines will be required to complete an IOSA safety questionnaire at a minimum of every 60 days during the extension period. The applicable Temporary Revision to the IOSA Program Manual (IPM) and affected registrations on the IOSA Registry can be consulted at IOSA.

Chairman and Chief Executive of Emirates Group, Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, said: “The world has literally gone into quarantine due to the covid-19 outbreak. This is an unprecedented crisis situation in terms of breadth and scale: geographically, as well as from a health, social, and economic standpoint. Until January 2020, the Emirates Group was doing well against our current financial year targets. But covid-19 has brought all that to a sudden and painful halt over the past six weeks.

“As a global network airline, we find ourselves in a situation where we cannot viably operate passenger services until countries re-open their borders, and travel confidence returns. By Wednesday 25 March, although we will still operate cargo flights, which remain busy, Emirates will have temporarily suspended most of its passenger operations. We continue to watch the situation closely, and as soon as things allow, we will reinstate our services,” he said.

The Group Managing Director and CEO of Kenya Airways, Allan Kilavuka, added that the move to suspend operation was in line with the directive by the government to stop all inbound and outbound international flight from Wednesday.

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