Three weeks after being grounded by Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), IRS and Chanchangi Airlines are still recording loses. ENCOMIUM Weekly’s checks on Friday, November 9, 2013, revealed that each of the airlines has lost over N120million which is about N240 altogether. Aside that, we scoped that the management of the airlines are not happy with the unfair treatment meted against them by the agency whom they hold responsible for their woes. This is not unconnected with the fact that some of their staffers, especially the pilots have decided to pitch their tents with the few viable airlines on ground.
Furthermore, checks revealed that the crisis brought untold hardship the way of numerous passengers scrambling for the few seats available onboard the domestic route. The privileged ones outplayed other passengers in picking seats by paying more. Interestingly, ARIK Air is the most beneficial in the brouhaha plaguing the industry.
IRS and Chanchangi Airlines were grounded days back by NCAA. It was gathered that the suspension followed a memo signed by the Director-General of the NCAA, Captain Fola Akinkuotu, ordering all scheduled airline operators whose fleet size had been reduced to only one operational aircraft to immediately stop flight operations.
The memo, which was addressed to all scheduled airline operators and dated October 14, 2013, has as its reference number, NCAA/DG/GEN/Vol.II/2013/80.
The memo, a copy of which was obtained exclusively by our correspondent on Wednesday, November 6, 2013, read in part, “You will recall that recently, the NCAA, through the director-general, expressly suspended the continued operation of airlines possessing otherwise valid Air Operators Certificate, but who were operating with a single aircraft.
“The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority regulations provide for more than a single aircraft for any operator to secure or operate under a valid AOC.
“This directive is, therefore, issued to formalise and clarify that prior order suspending such operations. As such, all AOC holders or operators whose operational fleet has been reduced to a single operational aircraft for whatever reason shall immediately and forthwith suspend their flight operations.
“Such operations may only resume upon clearance from the NCAA that there is more than one operational aircraft for continued flight operations and satisfaction that such AOC holder has the capacity to have safe flight operations prior to commencing any such operation.”
Following the directive, IRS and Chanchangi’s operations have been grounded by the regulatory authority.
The development has brought to four, the number of airlines whose operations have been suspended by the regulator in the last three weeks, following the Associated Airlines’ plane crash in Lagos on October 3, 2013.
Associated Airlines’ operation was suspended by the NCAA three days after the crash involving its Embraer 120 plane near the Lagos airport, which led to the death of 16 people. Two days later (October 6), the regulator suspended the operations of Dana Air nationwide.
In an exclusive chat with ENCOMIUM Weekly on Wednesday, October 30, 2013, the Public Relations Manager, Chanchangi, Mr. Oludele Balogun, said, “We can’t argue with the relevant authorities but I can tell you that we have more than one aircraft. The other one was taken out for C-checks. However, what we understand as one aircraft before means if you are entering the industry with just a plane for commercial purpose, you won’t be certified. But I wonder why this law now applies to us. We await their instructions as to when we can resume operations.”
The Managing Director, IRS, Mr. Yemi Dada, said, “The NCAA has the power to make rules and regulations for the sector. The rules state that you must have two aircraft when starting operations and not two at all times.
“But what we are really doing is to sit down with the NCAA and get the issue ironed out. The Airline Operators of Nigeria is trying to come up with a common position on the matter. Until then, we will comply with the directive.”
At the moment, only Arik Air, Aero Contactors, FirstNation Airlines and Overland Airways are left to do scheduled domestic flights in the country.
IRS Airlines Limited is based in Abuja, Nigeria. It operates scheduled domestic passenger services. Its main base is Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja. The airline was established in 2002 and started operations in March 2002. Its operational base is in Lagos.
Chanchangi Airlines was established on January 5, 1994 by Alhaji Chanchangi and started flight operations to and from Kaduna, Lagos, Owerri, Abuja and Port Harcourt on 2 May 1997. Services were operated using Boeing 727-200 aircraft, 3 Boeing 737-200 aircraft and 2 Boeing 737-300 aircraft were also acquired in 2009. Chanchangi Airlines won the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and the Corporate Merit Award for “Best Domestic Airline of the Year” for 1998, 1999 and 2000.
– FEMI OYEWALE