FIRST Nation Airways has become the latest Nigerian airline to call a halt to its operations nationwide although in its case this was to maintain its fleet of A319 aircraft and not for economic reasons.
Earlier this week, Nigeria’s oldest domestic airline Aero Contractors suspended all its scheduled services indefinitely beginning as part of a strategic business realignment to reposition its operations and return it to profitability. Once touted as the possible new national carrier, Aero Contractors, like many other Nigerian airlines is currently facing a cash crunch due to the downturn in the economy.
Like many other airlines, Aero is struggling to attract passengers, is having to pay exorbitant prices for aviation fuel and is unable to attract the necessary capital for investment in new aircraft. Several international airlines have already cut their services to Nigeria as the combination of the fall in passengers and the scarcity of foreign exchange has made business unattractive.
Following the decision by First nation to suspend its operations, it was thought that the airline had halted business too but it has denied this saying the suspension was purely for technical reasons. Commercial manager Sarah Awogbade, said the maintenance exercise would be completed by mid September, after which operations would resume.
Ms Awogbade added: “This will ensure that passengers continue to enjoy safe and reliable service that the airline is reputed for. Current foreign exchange constraints, coupled with over 70% devaluation of the naira, partly contributed in no small measure to this development but our plan remains on track to reinstating service.”
According to First Nation, it is an International Airlines Transport Association Operational Safety Audit certified airline and operates a fleet of Airbus A319s. Ms Awogbade added that at First Nation, safety is their priority and they look forward to reinstating service shortly upon completion of the current maintenance upgrade.