Ethiopian Airlines may start international flight ahead of Aug 29
Ethiopian Airlines may become the first airline to embark on a commercial flight out of Nigerian air space ahead of the August 29 date set by the government to resume international flights from the country’s airport.
The airlines, own by the East African country said it would fly the Lagos-London route this Friday, eight clear days ahead of the official schedule resumption of international flight after the covid-19 induced lockdown.
Nigeria closed both domestic and international flight in March in the wake of the outbreak of coronavirus as part of measures to contain its spread across the country.
However, this week the government announced plans for the reopening of the international airspace for flights outside the country by August 29.
Schedule of the Ethiopian Airlines, however, showed that the airline plans to operate a commercial flight from Muritala Mohammed International Airport on Friday, August 21.
The airline plans to operate two commercial flights to London from Lagos on Friday, according to an indication on the website of the airline as published by Punch Newspaper on Thursday.
However, aviation analysts said the scheduled flights may not happen ahead of the official reopening of the international airspace as airlines often schedule flight bookings for customers ahead of the due date and such is subjected to changes.
The analyst said, however, some private jet owners and operators of private jets have been operating the international flight during the lockdown on obtaining approval from the aviation and the political authority.
The first flight will leave Lagos Murtala Mohammed International Airport at 11.40 for London Heathrow Airport, with a stopover at Addis Ababa airport. The ET 553 Boeing 787-8 flight will leave Lagos and stop over at Ethiopia, switching to an ET 700 Airbus A350 flight for the remainder of the journey. Its cost was quoted as from N619, 561. The duration was put at 19hrs 20 mins.
The second flight is scheduled to leave Lagos Murtala Mohammed International Airport for London Heathrow Airport at 16:30 with a stopover at Addis Ababa airport. The ET 509 Boeing 787-8 flight will leave Lagos and stopover at Addis Ababa, switching to an ET 700 Airbus A350 flight for the remainder of the journey. The cost was put at from N390,269 with only one seat left. The duration of the flight is 14hrs 30 mins.
When asked why the airline was running the commercial flight before the reopening of the international flights, Ethiopian Airlines media consultant, Ikechi Uko, said he was not aware of the status of the flights.
“I do not know which website you saw. I do not have a clue. I do not know if they are doing evacuation flights to London.
“I know the Nigerian government hired them to do evacuation flights from America. Nigerian government uses Air Peace and other private airlines. This one, I have no clue.
“The Nigerian government is the one doing evacuation flight and if it is a private company, they will advertise. If you saw one and it is not the government, maybe you find out from the company.
“What I know ET is doing is on behalf of the Nigerian government from America. I have no clue. I know Nigeria has not opened an airport.”
The airline also scheduled to fly from Lagos to London on both August 29 and 31, subject to approval by the Nigerian government.
When contacted, the Director, Public Affairs, Federal Ministry of Aviation, James Odaudu, said no commercial flight had been cleared to lift passengers.
He insisted that commercial international flights would only resume operations on August 29 as earlier announced by the minister of aviation, Hadi Sirika.
“I don’t have the details of that (Ethiopian Airlines) flight, but if it is on August 21, then it is likely to be an evacuation flight. Commercial flights on international routes are to begin August 29.
“All evacuation flights are to end on August 25, but before then there is no commercial flight that is cleared to carry out commercial international operations.”