ETHOIPIAN Airlines may defy the Nigerian government and start operating its planes along the Lagos to London route as from this Friday despite a directive from aviation officials that international flights would not resume until August 29.
Earlier this week, Nigeria’s Covid-19 Presidential Task Force (PTF) has revealed that the recent announcement of August 29 as the date when international flights in and out of the country is still tentative and based upon several conditions being met. It is expected that the flights will resume at the end of the month, during which time all the major airlines will return to Nigeria.
However, there were indications that some international airline operators may violate the ban, particularly Ethiopian Airlines. Across Nigeria, domestic flights resumed on July 8 and airlines are now looking forward to the resumption of international operations.
Apparently, Ethiopian Airlines is scheduled to operate a commercial flight from Murtala Mohammed International Airport on Friday, August 21, with another one expected later on in the day. Already, the airline has been receiving bookings and one of the flights is said to have only seat left.
The first flight will leave Lagos Murtala Mohammed International Airport at 11.40am for London Heathrow Airport, with a stopover at Addis Ababa airport. 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 too.
Ethiopian Airlines media consultant Ikechi Uko, said: “I know the Nigerian government hired them to do evacuation flights from America. Nigerian government uses Air Peace and other private airlines but 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.”
James Odaudu, a Federal Ministry of Aviation spokesman, 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 Senator Sirika Hadi.
Mr Odaudu said: “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.” Stakeholders, however, have stated that the special/evacuation flight plan of government has been abused by private operators.