Archive | March 2012

Responses to ultimatum given to British carriers

The minister of aviation ordered British Airways and Virgin Atlantic to lower their prices or be banned from the Nigerian airspace:

The Federal ministry of Aviation has given the British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and all international airlines operating in the country a 30-day ultimatum beginning from Monday, March 26, 2012  to dismantle the regional fare imbalance between what Nigerian passengers pay for international flights and their counterparts in the West African sub-region or face an immediate ban from operating in Nigeria.

In response, the British government warned that it would take retaliatory steps against Nigerian airlines:

Reacting to the ultimatum last night, Britain said banning private airlines would amount to a “heavy-handed action that would be catastrophic.” Consequently, Britain said it would not hesitate to retaliate if the federal government goes ahead with the threat to ban after 30 days. Britain said only business and first class fares were more expensive to Nigerians than neighbouring countries because of high demand for those seats.

“It is wrong to suggest that Arik has been prevented from flying into Heathrow. Our understanding is that Arik is just unwilling to pay for the cost of renting or buying landing slots,” the British spokesman said. He added that it was something all airlines who want new slots into Heathrow needed to do.

British Airways stated that:

All of our fares are set on a sound commercial basis and remain fully competitive with other carriers in the region including Arik Air.

It may be recalled that earlier this year a panel in Nigeria set aside a $235 million fine levied against British Airways and Virgin Atlantic by the nation’s government over allegedly fraudulent fuel surcharges on tickets. The panel of experts issued a ruling that the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority lacked the regulatory power from 2004 to 2006 to fine the airlines, the period authorities alleged the price-fixing took place.

The whole saga begun when Arik Air complained that they could not secure landing slots at London Heathrow for their Abuja-London service, after which Nigeria called for a review of the BASA-aggreement.

With regard to the complaints about price disparity, it is surprising that all the reports only focus on the prices for business and first class (with comparatively strong demand in Nigeria) rather than economy class, the operational costs at Lagos airport in relation to those in other west-African cities are not taken into account either, and finally many other airlines – domestic and foreign – charge relative high prices to/in Nigeria due to the obsolete infrastructure and high operating costs. The whole issue of high ticket prices requires a broader approach and more structural policies from the Nigerian aviation authorities, rather than targeting particular airlines by interfering in the market.

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FAAN ejects Maevis from Lagos airport

After a long-running dispute about remittances, the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) on Friday night forcefully ejected one of its concessionaires, Meavis Limited, the operator of the multi-million dollar Airport Operational Management System (AOMS) project from Lagos airport. Managing Director of FAAN, Mr. George Ureisi, said that FAAN had started to implementation of the review of concession agreement which were not adding value to its coffers. FAAN has signed an agreement with Societe International De Telecommunication Aeronautiques (SITA) to take over the airport management at Lagos and Abuja airports. In the meantime, FAAN officials will resort to manual check-in of passengers.

Update:

Passengers travelling to international destinations from Lagos airport were delayed for hours because the check-in process has to be done manually.

Meanwhile, Maevis accuses FAAN of not being able to account for the N42 billion that it generated since the start of their partnership in 2007.

NAF takes delivery of two refurbished Super Pumas

Two Eurocopter AS332 Super Pumas (NAF 565 and NAF 567) rejoined the fleet of the Nigerian Air Force last week. The helicopters were refurbished in Romania, after being grounded since 1997. Some of the five used Super Puma helicopters purchased from France in 2009 also joined the NAF recently.

Click here for a picture of the reburbished NAF 567 at Nyala Airport, Sudan.

Nigerian pastor launches airline: Dominion Air

Nigeria’s richest pastor and self-styled bishop, David Oyedepo (Winners’ Chapel/Living Faith Church), has expanded his vast business empire by floating an airline called Dominion Air. No more details are available about the aim of this venture, but Oyedepo already owns four private jets (a Challenger 604 and Gulfstreams I, IV, and V) and a private hangar at Lagos airport.

Update: Dominion Air operates a B1900D (5N-WCI) and a Challenger 600 (N664D).

First aircraft landing at renovated Bauchi airstrip

A Donier 328 (D-CIRJ) operated by charter airline Prime Air Services was the first aircraft to land at the renovated Bauchi Airstrip on 13 February 2012. The aircraft was closed for eleven months, after an aircraft hit sheep on the runway during landing. Bauchi Airstrip is mainly used for charter operations, as no airline operates scheduled flights into the airport. The Bauchi State government is nevertheless planning to build a new international airport in the state, for which it signed a N7.9 billion contract last year.

Do 328 - Prime Air Services - Bauchi Airstrip

Do 328 - Prime Air Services - Bauchi Airstrip (copyright NAN)

FAAN to temporarily close Enugu and Benin airports in April

Contrary to earlier reports, the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) has not yet closed Enugu Airport for maintenance work. However, Enugu Airport and Benin Airport will probably be closed in April 2012 for runway renovation.

The FAAN also announced it will undertake a public auction of the old abandoned aircraft at the various national airports.

Aviation minister to tackle ticket price disparity

The Nigerian minister of aviation Stella Oduah announced that she is taking measures to curb regional ticket price disparity:

There are things we need to do as well to ensure that doesn’t happen; that includes the penalty that we’re going to impose on any airline that gets involved in regional imbalance, and also to know the factors that encourages that – one of which is supposedly the aviation fuel, which we will tackle. We will hedge it against international rate, so we’re using that as a benchmark price. In summary, regional price imbalance is an illegal act; its offensive and we will not encourage it. We will fight any airline that participates in that. It’s one of the major reasons that we will make sure that our airports are functional and passengers are encouraged to use our airlines and aircraft operators.

Media and public in Nigeria have repeatedly complained about the high international air fares from/to Nigeria.

In the interview the minister also commented on the new national airline that should be launched this year:

We need a national carrier that will represent who we are, that will portray us in the bright light. It will be owned by Nigerians and managed by Nigerians for Nigerians, on a commercial basis – no government involvement at all, and many companies and individuals have indicated interest in this venture.

Update:

The Federal Government has given British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and other international airlines operating into Nigeria thirty days to end ‘fare disparity’, where Nigerians pay higher for international flights than their West African counterparts. Minister of Aviation, Stella Oduah, said airlines that fail to abide by the ultimatum, which starts today March 26, would be banned from operating in Nigeria.

Aero fleet renewal

Aero has recently returned two Dash 8-Q300s to CHC, but will add five B737-400s to increase its fleet of this type to eight aircraft in the near future. A second former AirOne B737-400 (ex-EI-CWE) is already being prepared for delivery as 5N-BOB. However, the seventh and final B737-500 (5N-BLH) that airline would initially lease, is now being scrapped at Lasham.

Apparently, the airline also intends to increase its Dash 8-fleet again. Aero signed a contract with Fokker Services to accommodate the envisioned expansion of airline’s fleet of Dash 8 aircraft.

Aero is now also operating a S76C+ with a six seat VIP-interior for the Rivers State Government in addition to the AW139 (5N-RSN) already operated for the State Government.

Saliently, Cecilia Ibru is reported to be in charge of the airline again, after serving a jail sentence for fraud and financial mismanagement.

KLM is 65 years in Nigeria

KLM (Royal Dutch Airlines) is celebrating its 65th anniversary of flying into Nigeria. The airline started its operation in Nigeria on March 26, 1947 with a three weekly flight in/out of Kano. KLM currently offers daily flights out of Lagos, and three weekly flights out of Abuja and Kano to Amsterdam.

Convair CV-240 of KLM at Kano Airport in the early 1950s (copyright Old Git)

TopBrass Aviation operates two Dash 8-Q300s

TopBrass Aviation now operates two Dash 8-Q300s (5N-TBB and 5N-TBC) for the oil and gas industry in Nigeria. The two aircraft were acquired from HeliMalongo last year. The charter operator intends to add two Dash 8-Q400s to its fleet later this year.

Meanwhile, Aero has returned two of its Dash 8-Q300s and now operates only one aircraft (5N-BJO) of this type.

Here is a short video of a TopBrass Dash 8 (copyright captainbrookes2).

Caverton orders a Twin Otter 400

Caverton Helicopters has ordered a new Twin Otter, to be delivered later this year. The company currently operates two of the legacy Twin Otter aircraft for the oil industry. Caverton has recently also taken delivery of three AW139 helicopters (5N-BOI, 5N-BOJ and 5N-BOX) to be used for offshore transport duties in support of the Oil and Gas industry in Nigeria, and signed a contract with Shell for the acquisition of a further six (5N-CNL, 5N-CML, 5N-CHX).

The charter company also operates a number of S-76C helicopters in partnership with the French company Heli Union.

Caverton Helicopters also boasts the ownership of two Bell 412EP helicopters on its website, while these aircraft were paid for by the Lagos State government for monitoring purposes.

Caverton Helicopters – AW139

Presidential Air Fleet update

A second Falcon 7X (5N-FGV) joined the Presidential Air Fleet recently, after the acquisition of G550 (5N-FGW) and Falcon 7X (5N-FGU) last year. Meanwhile, the GIV (re-registered 5N-BOD), a Falcon 900 (5N-BOH), and the BAe 125-800B (5N-BOO) have been sold.

Update: the Presidential Air Wing is still expecting to take delivery of a Hawker 4000 for which a $9 million deposit is already paid.

This week’s update

Short updates:

  • Arik Air will suspend its Abuja-London service again per 25 March. Apparently the slot issue at London Heathrow has not been resolved.
  • Arik Air has ferried one of its CRJ900 aircraft (5N-JEC) to Arkansas for maintenance recently.
  • SkyBird Air will soon take delivery of its first Dornier 328Jet (5N-BMH).
  • DANA will also accept a new Dornier 328 aircraft (5N-DOW / ex-D-CASI) soon, after selling some of its aircraft last year.
  • Air Taraba’s EMB145 has received its livery (without titles yet) at Bournemouth; the aircraft will be registered 5N-BOZ.
  • A police helicopter (a Bell 427 that joined the fleet last year; 5N-POL) crashed near Jos on 14 March. The Airwing of the Nigerian Police also acquired a Cessna Citation XLS (5N-HAR) new last year.
  • Shell has given Caverton Helicopters a loan of $85 million to upgrade its fleet with six AW139s. Caverton will from next month expand its operations to Cameroon, signing a five-year contract with the Cameroon Oil Transportation Company.
  • Air France will resume flights from Lagos to Abuja from June 2012. It will be the airline’s third destination in Nigeria.
  • Enugu Airport will be closed for traffic for three weeks from 18 March (now postponed to April), to enable the installation of runway lighting.
  • Bauchi Airport has re-opened after a year of renovation works.
  • Kano State Government has appealed to KLM to shelve plans to suspend operations at Malam Aminu Kano International Airport.
  • FirstNation Airways have commenced a daily Abuja-Port Harcourt service from 14 March.
  • Allied Air Cargo continues to lease two MD11Fs from World Airways along its own four B727Fs.
  • Associated Aviation still operates an ERJ-145 (5N-BJM) leased from the Bauchi State government.
  • MaxAir has acquired a Embraer Legacy 600 (M-ANGA) for its charter operations. The airline also operates a Learjet 45 (5N-LDM).

SkyBird Air – Dornier 328Jet