The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (“NCAA”) in a circular dated 27 May 2020, issued a public health protocol in conjunction with the Federal Ministry of Health for Nigerian flight crew (the “Protocol”) in a bid to curtail the spread of COVID-19 amongst flight crew members and passengers. The circular applies to airlines, airports and other service providers in the aviation industry.
The NCAA has replaced the current practice where Nigerian based flight crew members operating international flights are quarantined for 14 (fourteen) days upon their return to Nigeria. According to the Protocol, Nigerian based airlines with foreign flights will be required, amongst others, to ensure the following:
- proper orientation and sensitisation of crew members on Infection, Prevention and Control (“IPC”) measures;
- that there is adequate Personal Protective Equipment (“PPE”), minimum of 70% alcohol-based hand sanitisers and universal precaution kits are stocked on board aircraft;
- flight crew wear PPE and observe IPC measures for the duration of all flights; after each flight, crew members must safely remove their PPEs for safe disposal in line with IPC measures;
- all passengers must use hand sanitisers before embarking aircraft and wear face masks for the duration of all flights except when eating or using emergency oxygen;
- flight crew to maintain a safe distance from passengers and not have direct physical contact with them;
- cabin crew serve only pre-packed meals to passengers;
- cabin crew will apply disinfectant spray in lavatory every 60 minutes during the flight and a notice must be put up in the lavatory/washroom requesting that passengers wash their hands after using the lavatory;
- airlines are to ensure immediate turnaround of flights with no crew member disembarking from the aircraft, except the pilot who would conduct a mandatory walk around wearing a non-medical face mask and gloves.
The Protocol also mandates that crew members experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 report to the aircraft operator and seek assistance from a medical doctor for examination.
While in a foreign country, flight crew members should not have any physical contact with residents while in the foreign country, including ground handling staff, airline staff, embassy staff, drivers, protocol officers, hotel and accommodation staff etc. Upon return to Nigeria, flight crew members will not be quarantined but will undergo mandatory testing for COVID-19 every 14 (fourteen) days at a cost to be borne by the airline.
As the government lockdown is being gradually eased and with the imminent reopening of the Nigerian airspace, the Protocol provides much-needed clarity on the rules for flight crews especially for the airlines which do not have the ability to have crew members quarantined in Nigeria for 14 (fourteen) days each time they serve onboard a flight to Nigeria.