By ISAAC AGBER
ONE of Nigeria’s air giants, Aero Contractors, is in the eye of storm amidst dire straits, ranging from hike in price of Jet A1 (Aviation fuel) to the friction involved in accessing foreign exchange, down to multiple service charges by the agencies, which are considered harsh, and other regulatory bottlenecks.
To leapfrog the doldrums, the airline is planning to cut down cost of operation by reducing its personnel and frequencies so as to stay in business at a low ebb.
Sources have confirmed that the airline, which has been struggling to bounce back from its managerial hitches, has not been able to bring back some of its aircraft that were taken out for maintenance due to restrictions in foreign exchange.
The carrier is also bedeviled with operational challenges, a development that led to the closure of some of its stations.
And currently, the airline is said to be in talks with the Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSAN) and other unions on how to cut down the number of staff so as to stave off the pressure on operational cost, the airline’s media consultant, Mr. Simon Tumba, confirmed.
The President of Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN), Comrade Benjamin Okewu, was also quoted as saying: “On Aero, we are negotiating redundancy with the airline and it is not because they are closing down. It is because the number of aircraft they have has reduced. So many of them have gone on C and D Check and the airline do not have the forex to bring them back, and they also have to close down some of their stations.
“So, we are in the process of concluding redundancy negotiations for them to send some people out. But that does not mean they are closing down completely because Aero has two segments. They are fixed wing and rotary wing. The rotary wing is servicing the oil and gas sector, while the fixed wing is for scheduled services and is ongoing, even though they have a few issues with the number of aircraft. But I want to believe that they are working round the clock to make sure that few machines come back,” Okewu said.
Lately, the airline competed with Arik Air and other indigenous airlines in recording high number of cancelled and delayed flights, a situation that prompted many passengers to switch to other airlines. Though other airlines like Air Peace, MedView and Dana Air are also caught in the web, they have been able to keep pace with flight schedules.
Should Aero slide behind its competitors, it may lose patronage of most passengers and it may be difficult to bounce back. The airline may have to employ urgent palliatives to stay afloat.