NCAA Stops Aero From Flying Six Planes

NCAA Stops Aero From Flying Six Planes

The labour crisis rocking Aerocontractors Airlines is far from over as the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority has restricted the embattled carrier to operating only three out of its nine operational aircraft.

Aero has about 14 aircraft in its fleet but only nine are currently in operation.

Investigations by our correspondent revealed that rather operating all the nine functional planes in its fleet, the crisis-ridden airline had been operating only three aircraft since its resumed operations about six days ago.

Findings revealed that the aviation industry regulator, NCAA, directed Aero to operate only three aircraft after its audit of the airline’s operation showed that it had capacity to operate only three planes following the resumption of operations.

The Acting Director-General, NCAA, Mr. Joyce Nkemalokam, who confirmed the development in a telephone interview with our correspondent, said the regulatory authority was constantly monitoring Aero to ensure that things were done safely and that security was not compromised even as the airline battled through the labour crisis.

The acting DG said, “Our officials are on top of the situation in Aero. The number of planes they are flying now is what they have capacity to operate. We are working with them. As they build more capacity, they will be permitted to operate more aircraft.

“Don’t forget, it was Aero that suspended its operations by itself initially. And now that they are back to fly, they have to follow some safety and security procedures completely.”

The industrial dispute with its 1,300 employees had left Aero grounded for 18 days from March 13 to March 30, 2013. The airline, however, resumed operations last Saturday following the intervention of the Senate.

The carrier resumed after the Chairman, Senate Committee on Aviation, Mr. Hope Uzodinma, met with the management, NCAA and the workers’ union in Abuja, and directed the airline to recall the over 600 dismissed workers, who allegedly participated in protests against a court injunction.

Investigation by our correspondent on Thursday revealed that the crisis rocking Aero was far from over.

Although all the workers have resumed, only a few of them have been cleared to work by the management of the airline.

Sources close to the airline disclosed that NCAA restricted the carrier’s operations to only three planes because the number of cabin crew and other workers cleared to work by the management could only cope with three planes.

Insider sources in Aero said aside planes that were currently on maintenance abroad, no fewer than nine of its planes were currently airworthy and operational.

A top official of Aero explained, “The reason the remaining six planes are not working is simply because Aero management is not ready to clear all the workers to resume work. Although the Senate had directed that all workers should resume, the management is currently carrying out what it called re-assessment for some workers.

“People are being asked to reapply for the job they are currently doing before they can be allowed to work. And when you go for the re-assessment, they give you a new condition of service different from the one you had signed when you were employed.

“So far, only a few workers who have accepted these conditions are being allowed to work. So, there is shortage of cabin crew because majority of them have not signed the form for the new condition of service. This is why NCAA is allowing them to operate only three planes.”

The Aero spokesman said he had yet to be briefed and, as such, did not have any comment regarding the situation.

The Aero management, however, said the workers were opposing restructuring and re-organisation going in the company.

The unions insist that the management must negotiate and pay severance benefits to the workers before carrying out any change that will lead to loss of jobs or outsourcing of current employment opportunities.

Aero is currently experiencing what industry observers have described as the worst crisis in its 53 years of existence.

The crisis has affected domestic air travel, which is currently being dominated by Aero and Arik in terms of wide route network.

Several passengers were stranded during the Easter rush just as many passed though hell to buy scarce flight tickets during the period. Airfares are still on the rise as a consequence.

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