The Managing Director Aero Contractors, Capt Abdullahi Mahmood has identified the inability of domestic airlines to access foreign exchange (forex) as the greatest reason for the gradual collapse of airlines in the country.
Mahmood, who spoke with reporters in his office, explained that lack of forex was affecting the smooth operations of any domestic airline
He said: “The forex issue is very very tough and if I tell you it is easy, I am lying to each and every operator who is finding it very tough. We have the money in naira but we can source the forex.”
According to him, the airline remained lucky as a result of the Maintain, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) facilities it has been operating which has saved it from going abroad for maintenance.
He noted that without the MRO at this crucial time of the pandemic, the cost would have been unbearable for the airline to stay afloat.
Mahmood said so many domestic airlines were using Aero MRO for their maintenance without paying in hard currencies to fly them abroad which he said has saved those airlines huge forex.
“The AMO here is not saving only Aero but saving other airlines to make sure that they save and they will not go and start looking for forex. That is what is saving Aero today because we do our maintenance here. Without this maintenance today, i am not sure if Aero will survive,” he said
He said aviation industry in the country are finding it difficult to survive as a result of charges by various agencies adding that the greatest is the men of the Nigeria customs service, who in spite of waivers on aircraft spares were still not allowing them to bring parts into the country even with the Presidency”s approval.
“There are a lot of government charges and importing spare parts, dealing with Customs. The federal government has given waivers for spares but up till now they are still dragging, some will say they are not aware of the government waivers. Every time, it is a problem”.
Mahmood also identified lack of proper planning by airline operators as one of the reasons why domestic airlines do not survive in the country adding that from the beginning, some airlines have failed.
On the engagement of Ethiopians expatriates by the airline, the Aero boss said it was intended to assist their Nigerian engineers to study them with a view of acquiring the knowledge of attaining some level to be able to maintain new generation aircraft.
He revealed that engineers in Aero are qualified but cannot sign off an aircraft engine adding that with these expatriates, the engineers will be able to acquire the knowledge and take charge
Mahmood explained that in early April, the number of Aero fleet will increase from its three aircraft to a better number as two aircraft were being worked on and will deployed for operations
On palliatives to the airline by the government, Aero boss said the airline will soon get its share of the palliatives as there was initial error with Aero account when it was first sent to their account adding that it has been rectified and will hit their account soon.
He said: “Aero has not gotten the palliatives because there was a mistake on the account and the money was sent back to the Ministry of finance but we are in process of getting it. Aero has not gotten a dime in the name of palliatives. We have been given full assurance and nobody has taken the money.”