Archive | September 2012

New national carrier: Lufthansa to become technical partner?

The Ministry of Aviation has completed its plans to set up a new national carrier in Nigeria before the end of the year. Instead of promoting one of the domestic airlines to the status of national carrier, the Ministry opted to create a new airline in partnership with a major European carrier that will provide technical support. The name of Lufthansa German Airlines has been circulating as possible partner in the past weeks, but Turkish Airlines could be a surprise choice too.

The ownership structure [of the new airline] will have zero government control in terms of management and equity holding but its controlling shares would be owned by Nigeria, who will become stakeholders through the sale of Initial Public Offer (IPO), while the partner airline would have management control and 49 per cent stake holding. “What is clear now is that government will not play any role in its ownership and control; it will be owned by Nigerians through IPO, although the template of that is still being worked on,” confirmed Joe Obi, the Special Adviser (Media) to the Minister of Aviation.


This week’s update

Short updates:

  • Dominion Air, which became a charter operator in March 2012, still has no website, although it seems the airline is fully operational. Often spotted at the Dominion Aviation Hangar at Lagos airport are a Challenger 600 (N664D) in new colours and registered to World Mission Agency, as well as a B1900D (5N-WCI; ex-5N-PTL).
  • Is Gyro Air, another Lagos-based charter operator, still active? The airline’s website went off-line recently.
  • So far, no more information is available about the four ERJ145s, which would be leased by Associated Aviation this month.
  • Nigeria suspended all Haji flights, as Saudi Arabia refused entrance to female pilgrims travelling without male guardians.
  • The Federal Government has again expressed the intention to financially assist existing airlines to lease newer aircraft and confirmed that a new national airline will be floated before the end of the year in partnership with a major European carrier.
  • The Kano State Government has requested the Federal Government to grant Turkish Airlines access to Kano Airport.
  • After a report that the number of private aircraft in Nigeria skyrocketed in the past years, the NCAA claimed that there are only ten private jets on the Nigerian register. However, this number doesn’t seem to include the locally registered jets of corporations and charter operators.
  • Fly540 failed to commence flights between Accra and Lagos on 24 September 2012.
  • RwandAir will introduce its new CRJ900 on the Kigali-Lagos route in October 2012, but the service will be five-weekly rather than daily.
  • Air Côte d’Ivoire, which will launch operations in November 2012, plans to serve Lagos from Abidjan. There are no direct flights between the two cities since the demise of Air Nigeria.

BASA fund: new allegations of corruption

The Minister of Aviation already denied accusations that the Bilateral Air Services Agreement (BASA) fund was utilised by the Federal Ministry of Aviation without approval from the relevant authorities. However, the members of the joint House and Senate Committee on Aviation are now accused of accepting a bribe for granting the Ministry of Aviation approval to draw money from the BASA fund for the airport renovation exercise. According to a Nigerian newspaper report:

The joint House and Senate Committee on Aviation, are alleged to have had their hands lubricated to approve the huge sum of money the Ministry of Aviation and its parastatals spent on the remodelling of  11 airport terminal buildings. A sum of $2 million was allegedly shared by the  lawmakers for the approval granted to the Ministry of Aviation to draw from  the now scandalous Bilateral Air Service Agreement (BASA) fund. An  online newswire report stated  that the said sum of $1 million gratification was allegedly given to each of the committees, in order to fast track the approval  of the BASA fund. Both committees had recently held series of closed-door meetings over the BASA funds without making public, details of their deliberations, a development that raises  questions  about the outcome of the meetings and their purpose.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Aviation has signed an MOU with Chinese investors to build new airport terminals at Abuja, Kano, Lagos and Port Harcourt in the coming year.

Contracts awarded for Dutse Airport

The Jigawa State Government has awarded three contracts for the construction of an airport near the state’s capital, Dutse, at the cost of N6.9 billion. The airport will be located along the Dutse-Panisau road. President Jonathan will lay the first stone during a visit to the state next month. The airport should be ready next year. According to Alhaji Babandi Ibrahim, the State Commissioner for Information:

Dantata and Sawoe were awarded N4.9 billion contract for the construction of the runway; the project is expected to be completed within 10 months. Another contract for the construction of a terminal building and car park was awarded to CGC Nigeria. Dantata and Sawoe also got another contract for the construction of  an access road to the airport at the total cost of N600 million. CGC has been given 12 months to complete the terminal building, while  Dantata and Sawoe have four months for the access road.

Arik Air halts all domestic flights

Arik Air’s operations at Lagos Airport were disrupted this morning by the labour unions, consequently all domestic flights are cancelled and hundreds of travellers remained stranded throughout the country. The unions claim that the airline owes N17 billion to various aviation agencies and airport authorities, but Arik Air blames the ‘persistent hostility of the Ministry of Aviation and Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) management’. It’s not clear whether the Federal Government grounded Arik Air or that the flight suspension is indeed the result of industrial action.

Arik Air released a statement:

Due to an action by the FAAN Union at the General Aviation Terminal in Lagos, we are sorry to advise our passengers that all domestic flights by Arik Air are cancelled for today Thursday 20 September. This information will be updated once we hear of any change. Passengers who have tickets to travel today will be re-booked on available flights once operations resume.

Yesterday, Arik Air announced it has carried 10 million passengers since it began operations. Meanwhile, the Senate Committee on Aviation asked the Minister of Aviation to designate Arik Air as Nigeria’s national flag carrier, until the new national carrier becomes functional at the end of the year.

Update 1: Arik Air halts all domestic operations. Arik Air has suspended all its domestic flights indefinitely. MD Chris Ndulue claims that the Minister of Aviation and others are trying to destroy the airline for their own financial benefit. The airline denies being indebted to the aviation authorities, and argues that it cannot continue to operate in a hostile environment.

Update 2: This article gives a good overview of the blame game. According to Joe Obi, Stella Oduah’s spokesman, Arik Air’s allegations are ‘completely untrue, unfounded and malicious’. He said Arik was using the disruption of their flights as an excuse to try and escape paying money they owed to the federal government.

Update 3: Arik Air will not operate domestic flights on 21 September 2012, but international flights operate as scheduled.

Update 4: The Central Bank of Nigeria has barred Arik Air and Aero of receiving any new loans over the massive loans – it was revealed today that Arik owes AMCON N85,5 billion, while Aero owes N32,5 billion. According to the CBN any bank that gives loans to companies or individuals on the AMCON debtors’ list loans will face serious fines from the Federal Government.

Update 5: On Friday evening, the labour unions called off their action against Arik Air and FAAN declared that the airline is free to resume its operations. All involved parties are invited for a meeting at Abuja on Saturday by the Federal Government. Arik Air announced that it will resume its domestic flight services on Sunday.

Ethiopian plans flights to Enugu

Ethiopian Airlines has expressed the intention to commence scheduled flights to Enugu Airport. The service would herald the beginning of international operations at the airport. The airline attempts to expand its operations in Nigeria by adding flights to Port Harcourt and Kano too:

Tewolde Gebremariam CEO of the air carrier said Ethiopian also has plans to fly to the southern central port city and oil hub of Port Harcourt as well as Northern Nigeria’s largest city Kano, while increasing the number of flight trips to Nigeria’s capital city Abuja, Nigeria. “We want more flights to Abuja because now Abuja-Addis-Asia and Abuja-Addis-Dubai-Bangkok-China is the best flight option for Nigeria bound passengers,” said Tewolde adding that Ethiopian would be pleased to add flights to the country where it has been flying for more than 40 years.

This week’s update

A few updates:

  • Arik Air is planning to float the company on the Nigerian Stock Exchange Market (NSE), meaning that it will become a publicly quoted company.
  • A rescue worker tasked with recovery of the black box of Dana Air’s crashed MD-83 claims that it was found in good condition. This contradicts the AIB report that the Flight Data Recorder (FDR) melted in the post-crash fire.
  • The NCAA has begun to re-certify Dana Air’s MD83s. The airline is in talks with Boeing to acquire B737s in order to replace its current fleet.
  • Boeing has promised that it will assist Nigeria with setting up a MRO facility and it will establish a Boeing Training Hub in Nigeria.
  • Arik Air has concluded a new agreement with Lufthansa Technik (LHT) over expanding their support partnership for its B737s and CRJ900s.
  • Kabo Air signed a deal with GMF to maintain its fleet of 3xB747-200 and 1xB747-400 for the next three years.
  • The Federal Government plans to remove import duties on the importation of aircraft and spares.
  • Osun State has awarded a contract for the fencing of Ido-Osun Airport, which is currently under construction.
  • Bayelsa State has relocated the site for a new Yenagoa Airport. The new site is located in Kolokuma/Opokuma, Yenagoa and Southern Ijaw LGAs. The soil conditions at the old location were not suitable for heavy construction work, according to the State Government.

Will Air Nigeria find a new owner?

Air Nigeria suspended all its operations today. According to some reports, the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) is considering to take over Air Nigeria’s debts and to merge the airline with Aero. AMCON was already approached by United Bank for Africa to take over Air Nigeria’s non-performing loans estimated to exceed N35 billion. UBA owns the two E190s operated by Air Nigeria. Another, rather unlikely, scenario is that the airline will be sold to new investors for a sum of $200 million.

Med-View to operate domestic flights with B737s

Med-View Airline, reportedly, will use two B737-400s (5N-BPA and 5N-BPB), configured with 12 business and 132 economy seats, for its planned domestic operations. The 21-year-old Boeings were formerly operated by Olympic Airways. The aircraft will be ferried from Romania to Nigeria this week. The airline intends to fly to Abuja, Kano, Lagos, Maiduguri, Port Harcourt and Yola, as soon as it gets permission from the NCAA to commence commercial scheduled operations. Various flight tests will take place as part of the NCAA certification process in the coming weeks.

Med-View Airline – B737-400 – 5N-BPB (copyright Temitope)

Currently, Med-View Airline has also wet-leased a B747-300 and a B767 for the forthcoming Haji operation.

Two other airlines – likely TopBrass Aviation and Hak Air – are also hopeful to receive their Air Operator Certificate shortly.

Nigeria to build eleven new airport terminals

The Minister of Aviation, Stella Oduah, announced that the Federal Government has approved a sum of N106 billion for the construction of eleven new airport terminals. Five new international terminals will be build at Abuja, Lagos, Enugu, Kano and Port Harcourt, while six new cargo terminals will be erected at the same airports as well as at Asaba. The new terminals are part of the second phase of the aviation road map, and follows the current remodelling process of several domestic airport terminals.

The minister said that the first phase of the remodeling and construction of 11 airports would be completed in the next 90 days, while the contract for the second phase of another 11 airports would take two years before completion. She explained that the projects were to be executed with a concessionary loan from China Nexim Bank in 22 years with 5 years moratorium at an interest rate of 2 per cent. Oduah added that mobilisation to site by the contractors was expected to commence in the next 90 days.

Meanwhile, the governor of Nasarawa State confirmed his plan to construct two new airports:

He said that the State Government would build a cargo airport in Karshi in the Karu Local Government Area of the state and an aerodrome in Lafia, the capital of the state. Al-Makura explained that the cargo airport would serve as the second runway for the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport Abuja.

Construction work at Port Harcourt Airport (copyright Davey0911)

FG lifts Dana Air’s suspension

Dana Air may be able to resume commercial services soon, as the Minister of Aviation announced that:

The Federal Government has lifted the suspension of the Operating Licence of Dana Airlines. This follows government’s satisfaction with the air-worthiness of the airline after a rigorous technical, operational and financial audit of the airline. By this development, Dana Airline is free to resume its normal commercial flight operations. Government will however continue to strengthen its oversight and regulatory functions to ensure that all airlines operating in the country, including Dana adhere strictly to safety procedures as required by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Act and all other relevant local and international regulations that ensure and promote sustainable air safety.

In a reaction to the news, Dana Air said that it will resume flight operations shortly.

Air Nigeria shuts down

Air Nigeria will cease all operations after 10 September 2012. The decision was taken, according to the management, because of staff disloyalty and environmental tension, ‘which are not conducive for business in the aviation sector’. All but 50 employees were fired by the chairman of the Air Nigeria, who expressed the intention to relaunch the airline next year.

Air Nigeria was founded in 2004 as Virgin Nigeria. The airline was renamed Nigerian Eagle Airlines in 2009, after Virgin withdrew itself from the partnership. Jimoh Ibrahim acquired the airline in 2010 and rebranded it Air Nigeria. The airline was grounded in June 2012 due to financial mismanagement, after which it lost most of its B737 fleet. Air Nigeria continued to serve the Lagos-London Gatwick route four times a week, operating the route with a wet-lease EgyptAir A330. The airline advises passengers to contact the agents from whom they have purchased tickets for a refund.

Fly540 to start Accra-Lagos flights

Fly540 intends to commence flights between Accra and Lagos on 24 September 2012, using a newly acquired Embraer 170. Schedule (operates all days, except on Saturday):

  • 5G950 ACC-LOS 17:15-19:15
  • 5G951 LOS-ACC 19:45-19:45

Fly540 will be renamed Fastjet later this year. The airline, in which easyJet founder Stelios Haji-Ioannou has a stake, aims to become a pan-African low-cost carrier.

Meanwhile, another Ghanaian carrier, Starbow Airlines, also plans to commence flights to Lagos in the near future. On the other hand, Senegal Airlines has dropped plans to start a Dakar-Lagos service. Also, the Nairobi-Abuja route announced by Kenya Airways last June will not take off this week.

This week’s update

Short updates:

  • The Nigeria Customs Service has accepted its new Cessna Citation CJ4 (5N-DIA) surveillance jet, which was ordered by the Federal Government in May 2012. The aircraft serves as a private jet for the NCS as the necessary surveillance equipment has not be installed yet. The Nigeria Customs Service also operates two Bell 427s.
  • The domestic airlines have rejected a proposal by the Federal Government to merge into a single carrier.
  • The Federal Government has approved twelve airports for Haji operation that will start on 17 September.
  • Is there any truth in the rumour that Hak Air will become Nigeria’s new national carrier?
  • A new issue of Arik Wings is available online.
  • ExecuJet will its second African fixed-base operation in Lagos (based at the Quits Aviation hangar).
  • According to the NCAA, Air Namibia will open a direct Windhoek-Lagos link next year.
  • Delta Air Lines has terminated its New York – Abuja service on 28 August 2012.
  • Aero will take delivery of a fifth B737-400 from GECAS (5N-BPR; ex-N608SC). The fourteen year old aircraft should leave Lasham for Lagos today.

Aero – B737-400 – 5N-BPR (copyright A.J. Best)