Friday, July 6, 2012

► NIGERIA: Air Nigeria future in doubt as GECAS repos its 737s.

Air NigeriaGlobal aircraft lessors General Electric Capital Aviation Services, better known in the aviation industry as GECAS, have dealt yet another blow to ailing Nigerian carrier, Air Nigeria (VK) by repossessing the four Boeing 737-300s (5N-VNC, 5N-VND, 5N-VNE and 5N-VNJ) it leased to the airline, over the latter's inability to settle its monthly financial obligations.

In a statement on its website (which has now been offline for over 2 days), Air Nigeria said:

Air Nigeria Boeing 737
Air Nigeria 737 '5N-VNJ' (Javier R)
"Subsequent to the temporary suspension of Air Nigeria’s regional and domestic flight operations by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), our lessors have been requesting to repossess some of the aircraft in our fleet and we are fully cooperating to return their aircraft. GECAS, one of our lessors, is already in the process of calling back four of their Boeing 737-300 aircraft and Air Nigeria is fully cooperating in line with the Cape Town Convention to expedite the repossession process.

Air Nigeria plans to acquire state-of-the-art aircraft to fill the reduction in capacity and is currently finalizing plans to resume normal flight operations across the regional and domestic routes as soon as possible.

We would also like to inform that the scheduled Lagos – London – Lagos flight operation is not affected by the temporary suspension directive of the NCAA and passengers are therefore encouraged to proceed with their confirmed itinerary while intending customers can make their reservations."
Read More Here [Nigerian Bulletin]

Despite Air Nigeria's claims that its international operation to London Gatwick has been unaffected, it has, however, been forced to indefinitely postpone the start of its vaunted Lagos-Johannesburg route, after it emerged that the embattled airline has been having "difficulty in honouring its agreement with EgyptAir, lessor of Air Nigeria's current A330-200; a second Airbus A330-200 needed to start Johannesburg (SU-GCJ) is still parked at Cairo."

Air Nigeria has persistently denied rumours of financial irregularities and difficulties at the airline, though recent events in the last month or so have not done anything to quell rampant speculation that the carrier is about to tank: a run-in with the Nigerian Federal Inland Revenue Service over unpaid back taxes, and a suspension of regional and domestic services by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority over safety concerns following a major strike by Air Nigeria pilots and engineers over those very concerns and others.

So, how much longer is Jimoh Ibrahim's venture going to last with all this turmoil and uncertainty? Or will we be forced to write an obituary in the weeks (or days) to come..