NIGERIA’S oldest commercial airline Aero Contractors has concluded plans to resume flights on Wednesday December 20 after a three month break after it was forced to stop flying due to a cash crunch.
On September 1, Aero stopped flying due to a lack of funds and its inability to pay for the maintenance of its aircraft brought about by the scarcity of foreign exchange in Nigeria. In response, the central bank of Nigeria came to the aid of airlines with a special fund to enable them access foreign exchange and Aero said it is now all set to resume operation.
Aero Contractors said it plans to resume flights with two Boeing B737-500s and one Bombardier Dash 8-300 but within a week would deploy two more Bombardier Dash 8-300s to bring its fleet to five aircraft. Over recent weeks, Nigerian airlines have been struggling to meet passengers’ demand and the festive rush has been characterised by flight cancellations and delays.
These problems have been further exacerbated by the inadequate supply of aviation fuel, known as Jet A1, currently priced at N240 per litre. In addition, Aero Contractors has had labour issues, which delayed its resumption of operations but these have now been resolved with the dispute settled.
Resolving the labour dispute had been a major condition given by the Assets Management Corporation of Nigeria (Amcon). Under the restructuring plan agreed, Aero will lay off some workers, and over time, the airline would bring back all of its aircraft comprising six Boeing B737-500s and three turbo props Dash 8-300s.
An Aero Contractors spokesman said: “We plan to resume on Wednesday but it is work in progress as we intend to start gradually then ramp up. We already have two Boeing B737-500s and one Dash 8 on the ground but we hope to get two more within days.
“We have resolved issues with the unions, so we are going to bring all our airplanes back over time. We have agreed to restructure, which is the condition given by Amcon.”