Nigeria: Number of Airlines in Nigeria Shrinks As Aero Contractors Closes Shop

The number of local airlines operating in the nation’s aviation sector has further reduced after Aero Contractors yesterday announced it was temporarily shutting down operations.

The airlines presently operating in Nigeria are nine: Air Peace airline, Arik Air; Azman Air, Dana Air, Green Africa, Ibom Air, Max Air, Overland and United Nigeria Airlines.

The management of Aero Contractors Company of Nigeria Limited said that the airline was shutting down its operations due to the impact of the challenging operating environment on their daily operations.

In a press statement made available to LEADERSHIP, the airline said it would temporarily suspend its scheduled passenger services operations with effect from Wednesday, July 20, 2022.

The statement, however, said the suspension of operations does not in any way affect the maintenance activities of the Approved Maintenance Organisation (AMO), otherwise known as AeroMRO, the Approved Training Organisation (ATO), also known as Aero Training School, the Helicopter and Charter Services operations.

“This decision was carefully considered and taken due to the fact that most of our aircraft are currently undergoing maintenance, resulting in our inability to offer seamless and efficient services to our esteemed customers. We are working to bring these aircraft back to service in the next few weeks, so we can continue to offer our passengers the safe, efficient, and reliable services that Aero Contractors is known for, which is the hallmark of Aero Contractors Company of Nig. Ltd,” it said.

The airlines’ management, however, identified high cost of maintenance, hike in aviation fuel, and forex scarcity among others as challenges that necessitated the temporary shutdown of their service.

It noted that the past few months had been very challenging for the Aviation industry and the airline operators in particular, with the high cost of maintenance, skyrocketing fuel prices, inflation, and forex scarcity resulting in high foreign exchange rates.

The airline’s management, however, assured that it was working assiduously to return to service as quickly as possible and craved the understanding of its customers.

“As members of Spring Alliance (a commercial alliance with member airlines providing mutual support in the area of operations), we are liaising with our partner airlines to minimise the impact on our esteemed customers. Our customer service team will be working to help affected esteemed customers reach their destinations.

“We sincerely apologise for any inconvenience caused to our esteemed customers and promise to return to service as soon as possible,” it said.

Nigerian airlines have faced severe operating challenges occasioned mainly by the jump the price of aviation fuel in the wake of the Russian-Ukraine war

The airline operators had repeatedly called on government to take urgent steps to resolve lingering issues that have hampered their operations.

Chairman of Air Peace, Chief Allen Onyema, confirmed that airlines lost huge resources running into billions of Naira last December due to the Harmattan haze, which forced them to cancel their flights with zero flights on December 27 and 28, 2016.

He noted that with modern landing aids, aircraft could have landed at low visibility occasioned by the harmattan.

He said aviation fuel constitutes 85 percent of operational cost because of its increasingly rising cost and urged government to urgently intervene through local refining to make the product available at affordable prices, adding that whatever money that remains for the airlines after buying fuel, they use it to pay aviation agencies’ charges.

“Airlines must be supported for them to continue to operate. The federal government should declare emergency in the industry by removing every form of tax to the airlines for a given period of time. Government can ask the agencies to collect N1,000 flat rate. Because of the difficulty in operating in Nigeria, the domestic airlines are losing their pilots even to the airlines operating in neighbouring countries. We are not asking for money from government; we are asking for enabling operating environment. We want to have airfield lighting at the airports so that we can land from 6pm; we have to have aviation fuel at affordable rates. It is only in Nigeria that the product is costly,” Onyema said.

He further noted that it is only Nigeria that allows foreign airlines to operate to three airports, operating from one city to another, instead of picking passengers from one airport and flying out of the country.

“In Nigeria they can fly to Lagos and from Lagos they carry passengers to Port Harcourt and back to Lagos before they leave the country and this involves more than one foreign airline,” he said.

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