By Adekunle Williams and Solomon Asowata
Lagos – FirstNation Airways has appealed to the Federal Government to address the issue of compensation for airlines over losses incurred as a result of closing of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.
The airline made the plea in a statement signed by its Manager, Corporate Services, Mr Rasheed Yusuf on Wednesday in Lagos.
The Federal Government on March 8 closed the Abuja airport for a period of six weeks to carry out a major rehabilitation of its runway.
Yusuf said the airline was in total support of the on-going repair of runway and commended government’s efforts at addressing infrastructure decay, especially in the aviation sector.
He said that the closure of the airport had affected the operations of the airline, adding that this informed the airline’s decision to temporary reschedule its operations.
According to him, this was to accomplish crew training and other important capacity building exercise that would further raised quality raise of service and enhance safety.
“It is our prayer that the government will urgently address the issue of financial compensation to airlines for losses incurred as a result of the closure with the same fort rightness being displayed with respect to the runway repair.
“We also acknowledge that within the last 30 days’ Foreign Exchange constraints continue to ease.
“However, the current 60 days forward bid is more suited for bill for collections and foreign airline remittances but challenges remain for airlines headquartered in Nigeria, who have to also wait 60 to 90 days for value.
“We hope that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) will start offering a mixture of spot foreign exchange availability to ease planning as forward transactions is unduly prolonging airlines maintenance, training, and thus compounding planning.’’
He further expressed optimism that the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) would continue to engage the government on how to improve the operating environment of the industry.
“FirstNation remains bullish about her future outlook and will return to Kaduna and Port Harcourt as from March 29 when we anticipate that traffic would have stabilised in preparation for Easter season,’’ Yusuf added.
NAN reports that the airline had temporary suspended its operations as a result of low passenger demand which it claimed was due to the diversion of Abuja flights to Kaduna International Airport.
The General Manager, Public Relations, Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Mr Sam Adurogboye, confirmed the development in a text message to aviation correspondents.
Adurogboye, however said the airline grounded its operations because it did not have “flight crew who are current’’ at the moment.
The NCAA spokesperson had also in a recent interview with newsmen confirmed that FirstNation was operating with only a single A319 aircraft instead of the prerequisite two aircraft.
Adurogboye said the airline was granted waiver for a few months to use one aircraft due to the unserviceable nature of its second aircraft, adding that the NCAA was closely monitoring its operations.
The airline in Aug. 2016 voluntarily suspended operations for two months, due to lack of operating aircraft.