Tuesday, December 11News That Matters

EXCLUSIVE: Lack Of Aircraft Forces Dana Air To Suspend Flight Operations

Barely two weeks after celebrating its 10 years of flight operations in Nigeria, Dana Air has suspended flight operations.

The airline, which has over the past four years been struggling with two its two McDonnell Douglas MD-83 aircraft, suspended flight operations last week.

A source close to the airline confided in our correspondent that the airline, which had a fatal crash on June 3, 2012, killing about 159 souls onboard and on the ground, is currently going through recertification of its Air Operators’ Certificate (AOC) with the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA).

The recertification exercise is carried out every three years, but while the exercise goes on the airlines don’t necessarily suspend flight operations.

It was gathered that the airline also suspended operations because of the inadequate number of aircraft in its fleet.

In September, the airline’s leased aircraft from ASKY Air Boeing 737 had to be grounded by NCAA after barely 24 hours of flight operations, as the regulatory body accused it of violating civil aviation rules with its partnership with the airline.

According to a source close to the agency, the airline alleged that it wanted to use the aircraft for fifth freedom flight, which is not acceptable in Nigeria.

The suspension of operations of the airline, coupled with the currently reduced fleet by other airlines across the country, is causing chaos in the system.

For instance, operations of Med-View Airline were downgraded to just one flight daily — Lagos-Abuja — by NCAA, while Air Peace withdrew some aircraft from its fleet for C-check abroad.

The source said: “There is massive chaos in the industry at the moment. Most of the passengers are stranded because of inadequate equipment to work with by the domestic flight operators. Dana Air, for instance, had to suspend its operations, citing its ongoing AOC recertification with NCAA.

“But, Dana Air is not the only airline that has gone through recertification with NCAA. Other airlines did and still do. However, the airline has to suspend operations because of lack of aircraft in its fleet. Let’s just hope that it comes out of its current situation.

“Already, Med-View has been downgraded to non-schedule. Also, Arik Air and Aero Contractors, despite the takeover by the Assets Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON), are not doing well.”  

Meanwhile, Corporate Communications Manager, Air Peace, Mr. Chris Iwarah, said in a statement on Thursday that the airline would rescue the stranded passengers across the country.

Iwarah hinted that the airline would soon deploy more aircraft to service destinations currently experiencing air travel difficulties.

He also pointed out that the fleet of the airline had dropped by five aircraft in recent times, but a source close to the industry confided in our correspondent that no fewer than 10 aircraft had been withdrawn from the fleet of Air Peace in recent time.

It was learnt that most of the aircraft, including the recently acquired Boeing 777-200, are on checks abroad.

Iwarah explained that the airline was concerned about reports of shortage of scheduled flights across the country and was ready to do everything within its capacity to ease the pain of air travellers.

He also confirmed that the nation had been facing air travel difficulties since it reviewed its flight schedule downward on account of the five aircraft it pulled out of service and sent abroad for C-check.

He said: “In the last few weeks, we have been inundated with demands for flights by members of the public who wish to travel, but could not secure seats as almost all our flights on major domestic routes are fully booked. We are genuinely concerned about the plight of the travelling public and sincerely empathise with them.

“The situation became dire after we recently pulled out five of our aircraft from service for maintenance abroad and had to necessarily review our flight schedule downward to avoid delaying our valued customers. A check on our reservation platform indicates that almost all our flights are fully booked till the end of the year.

“We, however, are aware of the role we play in ensuring seamless air travel in Nigeria and are not going to let down our dear country and members of the flying public now that they need us the most. We urge members of the flying public not to entertain any fear.

“Beginning from Sunday, most of our aircraft that went for C-check will start to return to join our operations. We are soon going to schedule more flights and deploy more aircraft across our domestic routes.”

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