Coronavirus: We’ll need stimulus to come back – Airlines operators tell FG

Following the shutdown in the aviation sector over the coronavirus pandemic, the Chairman of Airline Operators of Nigeria, Captain Nogie Meggisson, has said airlines will need stimulus from the Federal Government to return to operations.

Meggisson, in an interview, said airline operators might not consider sacking workers as an option during the shutdown period.

Considering the burden of losses that airline operators might incur over the shutdown of the critical sector, Meggisson said it would be imperative to give the stimulus to domestic airlines to create an enabling environment to bounce back

He said, “From my position, any sacrifice for coronavirus cannot be quantified at this time. The only thing that we want, like what the outside world is doing, is to compensate the airlines because we know that the burden is heavy and we cannot be insensitive to say we would want to still go commercial right now, we want to put Nigeria first.

“However, as other countries are doing, the Nigerian government should also stand up to back us. They should create an enabling environment to jumpstart us again because nobody will be able to jumpstart us as airlines at this period. As you know, the salary of one pilot is something huge and if you are running a shift of 80 pilots, you know what that means.

“The Federal Government has to give us a stimulus. If you look at the forefront of jumpstarting any economy, aviation is part of the pillars as one of the enablers. In the start-off plan after this coronavirus pandemic, the government has to if not you are going to put the cart again before the horse. So, part of the remedy to jumpstart the economy after this whole issue has ended is to give us stimulus.

“One of the ways to jumpstart the economy is aviation because people will need to move and you cannot expect the private companies to get loans after shutting down for a period. You cannot start a plane and start using it after it’s been out of use for a period, it must be serviced.”

On the sacking of workers, if the problem persists, Meggisson said discussions were ongoing, adding that suspending the payment of salary was an option instead of laying off the workers.

“Sacking workers is not the issue right now. We need to see how we can manoeuvre through this period. There is no need to sack, where are they going to? Like in the United States, what they do is pay off because everybody knows everything is suspended. If it is two weeks you can project, but nobody knows when this is going to end. God forbid if this thing lasts till September, for instance,” he said.

When asked to react that some airlines had said they would not pay April salary because they had sent workers home, Meggisson said, “It is not April salary. What they said is that they are suspending salary because they do not know when they will come back. So, airline operators cannot expose themselves to salary running into millions monthly when they are not operating. I am not saying it is right or wrong, but airlines are discussing with their staff but there is no sacking. If they start operations today they cannot deny their workers their salaries.” – Punch.

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