Three months after putting a halt to their operations occasioned by the restrictions placed on Nigerian travelers to Paris, Amsterdam, and Frankfurt, the Nigerian government on Tuesday granted permission to Air France, KLM, and Lufthansa to re-commence flights to Nigeria.
The three airlines can now resume flight services between Paris, Amsterdam, and Frankfurt to Lagos according to Nigeria’s Aviation Minister, Hadi Sirika who made the announcement via his verified Twitter handle @hadisirka.
The Nigerian government had shortly before reopening of the country’s major airports to international flights after more than five months of closing her airspace due to the COVID-19 pandemic applied the principle of reciprocity to all countries that had barred flights from Nigeria.
Some of the countries which had barred flights from Nigeria are in the European Union as the EU included Nigeria on the banned countries on the first of July, 2020 when they opened their airspace.
Air Peace, a Nigerian airline encountered difficulties in operating to Europe for the evacuation of Nigerians from Europe at the peak of COVID-19. It was among 24 airlines that were asked to present Foreign Carrier Operating Permit (FCOP). The FCOP was granted but the carrier was denied the right to fly to Europe.
Air France whose destinations including Lagos and Abuja, although armed with FCOP was barred as “Tourist visa holders not allowed entry”. The same “Tourist visa holders not allowed entry” was responsible for the barring of the KLM Royal Dutch, whose destination was only Lagos.
Another criterion used for approving and denying the airlines, Sirika said: “We used the foreign carrier operator permit which is the requirement by our laws, guidelines by COVID-19 Presidential Task Force and other rules, including restrictions that came from other countries which will affect our own operations here at home.” “Air France and Lufthansa were not approved.” The reason is that Swiss visa owners are not allowed entry and the same reason for KLM. “In making decisions as to who comes, in the wisdom of the PTF and the Ministry of Aviation, we understood that the government has done very well with a low rate of fatality. If you look at other countries, for example, they recorded a lot of fatalities”.
Meanwhile, the Minister hinted that the Ministry of Aviation was working with the Ministry of Health, CACOVID, and the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 to re-open Kano, Port Harcourt, and possibly Enugu airports before the end of the year to international flight operations.
The Minister equally gave approval to Qatar Airways to start a flight to the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.
“We are over 200 million people and we are still talking about 1,000 deaths. I think we have done very well in fighting this disease (COVID-19). I think we don’t have any reason whatsoever to disallow Nigerians from traveling. What we have done is to review the issues from other countries and what they have done to us. In the case of Britain, they said when we come, they will quarantine us and so, when they come to us too, we will quarantine them.”