The Federal Government is at the crossroads in deciding what to do with the duo of Arik Air, and Aero Contractors that are currently being managed by the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON).
Recall that AMCON took over Aero Contractors in February 2016, and a year later, also acquired the management and control of Arik Air over alleged gross mismanagement and huge debt burden in excess of N387billion.
The Guardian yesterday learnt that even AMCON, the government’s special debt recovery vehicle, had no inkling of the kind of fate that awaits the airlines after keeping their operations stable.
The situation leaves the government on the verge of having stakes in three airlines once the new national carrier, Nigeria Air, comes on board – a development experts have described as odd and untidy.
Meanwhile, the plan to float the Nigeria Air, may have suffered a setback, with delays in the release of initial funding for takeoff.
Sources revealed that the delay is not unconnected with President Muhammadu Buhari’s recent vacation, and alleged refusal of the Acting President, Yemi Osinbajo, to approve some requests made by the Minister of States for Aviation, Hadi Sirika.
The information directorate of the Ministry yesterday refused to speak on the funding issues. It also refused to remark on the situation where the airline scheduled for launch in December, has still not applied for an Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC), from the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA).
Meanwhile, AMCON, as the major creditor for Arik and Aero Contractors airlines, had said the takeover was to save the airlines from imminent collapse, and return them to profitability.
A top official at one of the airlines told The Guardian that AMCON had indeed delivered on its mandate of keeping the airlines running.
For instance, Aero Contractors re-strategised to divest into the resuscitation of its Approved Maintenance Organisations (AMO) facility, which has since commenced Maintenance Repair and Overhaul services for Boeing 737 classics aircraft. Similarly, Arik Air has sustained its local and regional operations since the takeover.
“If AMCON had not intervened, the two airlines would have collapsed and their assets sold. So, the takeover was aimed at protecting the employees, sustain the transport network and the economy too. That is exactly what AMCON had done.
“Yes, we have not been able to take it to the next level, but that is not part of AMCON’s assignment. If it were to do that, then it would have to start investing huge capital in the airlines, paying creditors and buying aircraft, among others. What to do with the outstanding and the airlines, nobody really knows for now,” the source said.
However, there are still the pending issues of workers’ benefits, indebtedness to various parties, and what to do with government’s stake in the airlines.
Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN), at the their recent National Executive Council (NEC) frowned at the failure of AMCON to, in almost two years, honour the redundancy agreement , which ATSSSAN and other unions signed with the management of Aero Contractors in 2016.
Deputy General Secretary, ATSSSAN, Comrade Frances Akinjole, said while empathising with Aero management, criticised the refusal of AMCON to approve the settlement of arrears of salaries and terminal benefits of staff members declared redundant, saying: “the directive of is not only inhuman, but a breach of the terms of the redundancy agreement.”
In respect of the debt owed by the airlines, the Secretary General, Aviation Safety Round Table Initiative (ASRTI), Group Capt. John Ojikutu (rtd), said taking over the aircraft of Arik and Aero would have been a good option for government to use as its five per cent contribution to start the new airline. “But the debts of these airlines are not owed to government alone.”
“There are debts owed to banks, foreign technical service providers, etc. These could be sources of litigations on the new airline,” he added.
He observed that the national carrier was still within the 90-day window for AOC application and approval, adding that initial funding should not be the problem to force a setback on the whole agenda.
“I don’t think the bulk of the start-up money must come from the government, whose share is only five per cent. There are expected share funds from strategic investors, which I advise must be foreign technical investors with 40 per cent share, but which I am told has been increased to 50 per cent.
“I also expect 20 per cent share funds from Nigeria’s credible investors and the Nigerian public like you and I – 30 per cent. I expect the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) to take the remaining five per cent.
“Let me make myself clear again, the new national carrier is a public airline, and not a government or private airline. Therefore, the involvement of government now with the carrier is that of facilitator and not that of ownership. That position makes it different with that of the defunct Nigeria Airways, which was more or less a government airline or the Virgin Nigeria, which was owned by some political officeholders in and out of government,” Ojikutu said.
Rolls-Royce Set To Power Vertical Aerospace’s All-Electric Aircraft
Vertical Aerospace by Rolls-Royce (Flickr)
Rolls-Royce’s ground-breaking technology is set to power Vertical Aerospace’s flagship Urban Air Mobility (UAM) aircraft. A Rolls-Royce electrical power system will be integrated into the piloted all-electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) vehicle, which will carry up to four passengers for 120 miles at cruise speeds of over 200mph and is on course to certify in 2024.
Vertical Aerospace is a key collaboration for Rolls-Royce Electrical as it marks our first commercial deal in the UAM market and builds on previous agreements to work with partners on demonstrator programmes. Rolls-Royce will design the system architecture of the whole electrical propulsion system, the electric power system that includes our latest 100kW-class lift and push electrical propulsion units, the power distribution and the monitoring system that will support operations.
Rob Watson, Director – Rolls-Royce Electrical, said: “We are delighted to collaborate with Vertical Aerospace for the electrical technology that will power their pioneering eVTOL aircraft. This exciting opportunity demonstrates our ambitions to be a leading supplier of sustainable complete power systems for the new Urban Air Mobility market which has the potential to transform the way that people and freight move from city to city.”
Michael Cervenka, CEO – Vertical Aerospace said: “We are excited to collaborate with Rolls-Royce, bringing onboard a hugely experienced team with deep expertise and cutting-edge electrical technologies to power our pioneering eVTOL aircraft. This collaboration builds on our existing partnerships and Vertical is well-positioned to develop the world’s leading eVTOL aircraft, certified to the highest CAA and EASA safety standards being set globally.”
Around 150 Rolls-Royce engineers based in countries including Hungary, Germany, US and the UK will work with the Vertical Aerospace team on developing the aircraft which is aiming to be one of the world’s first certified eVTOLs. Vertical Aerospace, based in Bristol, has already flown multiple full-scale eVTOL prototypes and the build of VA-X4 will begin shortly with assembly taking place in the UK and the first flight happening this year.
Vertical Aerospace by Rolls-Royce (Flickr)
Electrification of flight is an important part of Rolls-Royce’s sustainability strategy and supports our aim to contribute to a net zero carbon future by 2050. Rolls-Royce Electrical is a specialist team whose focus is to develop sustainable, efficient and quieter technology for aviation, marine, land and industrial applications.
Rolls-Royce also recently announced a partnership with Tecnam and major worldwide aviation players for the development of the P-Volt: an all-electric, twin electric motor, short and medium range passenger aircraft, designed for maximum versatility and safety, powered by renewable energy. In our traditional aviation segments technology continues to be developed for more-electric aircraft solutions- with integrated electrical starter generators, auxiliary power units and more intelligent management of the electrical systems on board.
Lufthansa and SWISS partner Airlink to offer convenient travel connections in Southern Africa
Lufthansa and SWISS Aircraft (Source: Lufthansa Group website)
Lufthansa and SWISS are partnering with Airlink, to offer customers access to over 25 domestic destinations in South Africa, including Bloemfontein, George, Upington, Skukuza, Nelspruit, Hoedspruit and Port Elizabeth – as well as over 20 regional destinations in Southern Africa, such as Gaborone, Kasane, Vilanculos, Maun, Victoria Falls, Maputo, Windhoek, Harare, Lusaka, Ndola, Bulawayo and many more.
The interline agreement which came into effect in January 2021, allows customers the convenience of purchasing a single ticket to or from a multitude of destinations in Southern Africa, via Airlink’s gateways in Johannesburg and Cape Town, therefore offering a truly seamless travel experience across both airlines.
“The Lufthansa Group is pleased to offer our customers even more travel options and convenience through our partnership with Airlink. We value Airlink as an important and reliable partner in the restart of our South African operations, and look forward to exploring further opportunities to widen the scope of our joint collaboration. This
partnership represents another milestone in further enhancing our network, and expressing the Lufthansa Group’s commitment to South Africa,” says Dr. André Schulz, General Manager Sales Southern and East Africa, Lufthansa Group.
Airlink CEO, Mr. Rodger Foster added: “We are proud and excited about our commercial interline agreement with Lufthansa and SWISS. We have a deep respect for these airlines, their values and global reach. We are confident that the partnership will provide our respective customers with a wider choice of travel options through the convenient interconnectivity of our respective flights at Johannesburg’s OR Tambo International Airport and Cape Town International Airport.
Jointly issued by Airlink and Lufthansa Group
Qatar Airways Expands Africa Network with Increase in Flight Frequencies
Qatar Airways Aircraft (Source: YouTube)
Cape Town, Casablanca and Tunis will increase to five weekly flights, while Johannesburg will increase to 18 weekly flights, offering passengers more flexible and reliable travel options
Airline’s young mixed fleet of sustainable aircraft has enabled it to continue flying throughout the pandemic and rebuild its global network to more than 800 weekly flights to over 120 destinations via the Best Airport in the Middle East
Qatar Airways continues to be the leading global carrier connecting Africa, operating one of the largest and most reliable networks in the region. Having become the largest international carrier during the early stages of the pandemic, the airline has applied its unrivalled knowledge of global passenger flows and booking trends to rebuild its Africa network to 23 destinations and more than 100 weekly flights.
Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive His Excellency Mr. Akbar Al Baker, said: “We are proud to be the leading international carrier connecting Africa with Asia-Pacific, Europe, the Middle East and the U.S., offering more flexible travel options and a global network of flights that passengers, trade and business partners can rely on. Having launched three new destinations in Africa with Abuja, Accra and Luanda joining our network in 2020, we continue to demonstrate our commitment to the region by adding new routes and steadily increasing frequencies across the continent. With the resumption of Alexandria and Cairo, we will operate over 100 weekly flights to and from Africa with connections via the Best Airport in the Middle East, Hamad International Airport, to our global network of over 120 destinations. As global travel recovers in 2021, we look forward to further expanding our network and offering more connections to and from Africa.”
In line with the airline’s steady rebuild of its Africa network, Qatar Airways plans to increase frequencies to the following destinations:
- Alexandria (two weekly flights resumed 25 January)
- Cairo (up to 16 weekly flights resumed 18 January)
- Cape Town (increasing to five weekly flights from 1 February)
- Casablanca (increased to five weekly flights from 21 January)
- Durban (increasing to three weekly flights from 14 February)
- Johannesburg (increasing to 18 weekly flights from 26 January)
- Maputo (increasing to three weekly flights from 14 February)
- Tunis (increased to five weekly flights from 24 January)
The national carrier of the State of Qatar continues to rebuild its network, which currently stands at over 120 destinations with plans to increase to over 130 by the end of March 2021.
Qatar Airways has become the first global airline in the world to achieve the prestigious 5-Star COVID-19 Airline Safety Rating by international air transport rating organisation, Skytrax. This follows HIA’s recent success as the first airport in the Middle East and Asia to be awarded a Skytrax 5-Star COVID-19 Airport Safety Rating. These recognitions provides assurance to passengers across the world that airline health and safety standards are subject to the highest possible standards of professional, independent scrutiny and assessment. For full details of all the measures that have been implemented onboard and in HIA, please visit qatarairways.com/safety.
Passengers can book flights with peace of mind, knowing that Qatar Airways offers unlimited date changes and fee-free refunds for all tickets issued before 30 April 2021, for travel completed by 31 December 2021. The carrier’s industry-leading flexible booking policy also provides the permanent feature of exchanging tickets for a travel voucher with 10% additional value for all customers booking travel via qatarairways.com. For full terms and conditions visit qatarairways.com/Flexibility.
A multiple award-winning airline, Qatar Airways was named ‘World’s Best Airline’ by the 2019 World Airline Awards, managed by Skytrax. It was also named ‘Best Airline in the Middle East’, ‘World’s Best Business Class’, and ‘Best Business Class Seat’, in recognition of its ground-breaking Business Class experience, Qsuite. The Qsuite seat layout is a 1-2-1 configuration, providing passengers with the most spacious, fully private, comfortable and social distanced Business Class product in the sky. Qsuite is available on flights to more than 45 destinations including Kuala Lumpur, London, Melbourne and New York. It is the only airline to have been awarded the coveted ‘Skytrax Airline of the Year’ title, which is recognised as the pinnacle of excellence in the airline industry, five times.
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