Charter Airlines: NCAA to begin investigation into Allegations that Airline Defy Flight Ban, Fly Rich Nigerians Abroad
When contacted to speak on what the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority was doing to sanction errant private jet owners and foreign airlines contravening the international flight ban of the Federal Government, the NCAA said it would investigate the matter.
The agency’s spokesperson, Sam Adurogboye, requested for some of the adverts on such international flights and after receiving them, he promised to forward them to the appropriate directorate for further investigation.
“Thanks for this. It will help our investigation. I will give you feedback thereafter,” he told one of our correspondents.
The Director, Public Relations, Federal Ministry of Aviation, James Odaudu, said the ministry was not aware of such incidents at the moment.
“As far as the Federal Ministry of Aviation is concerned, there are only two categories of flights that are allowed internationally into and out of Nigeria. And they include evacuation flights or those on essential services,” he stated.
He, however, noted that the government would not hesitate to sanction any airline found culpable of breaching federal directives as regards international flight operations.
Meanwhile, towards the end of March this year, the Federal Government slammed a N1m fine on a British charter carrier, FlairJet, for violating some sections of Nigeria’s Civil Aviation Regulations.
The Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, said the carrier was also reported to stipulated authorities in the United Kingdom.
The Legacy 600 aircraft belonging to FlairJet registration G-ERFX was impounded by the Federal Government at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos for conducting out commercial flight operations despite the ban on such flights in Nigeria.
After impounding the aircraft, the Federal Government quarantined the pilots and other crew members for 14 days, and declared that all necessary sanctions against the British aviation company would be applied to the fullest.
Charter Airlines: Travel agents selling flight tickets to survive, says ex-NANTA president
Commenting on the development, the immediate past President, National Association of Nigerian Travel Agencies, Bernard Bankole, said most travel agents had been out of business for about five months.
Bankole also argued that there was nothing absolutely wrong the actions by agents who sell tickets for such flights.
He said, “When you are very hungry, if they give you garri, it becomes a suitable food, forget about the ban on international flights.
“For how long are we going to continue like this? Five months and counting, people have been out of business. This is the situation on the ground.”
He said when approvals for such flights come from the Federal Ministry of Aviation after communication the foreign affairs ministry, people use the opportunity to move passengers into or out of Nigeria, all in a bid to survive.
Bankole insisted that the situation on the ground warranted what was happening, adding that until international flights resume, operators in the downstream aviation sector would continue to seek measures to stay alive.
Charter airlines can operate private charter flights abroad — CEO
The chief executive officer of local charter airline, who spoke on condition of anonymity, argued if people had to pay for evacuation flights, then the flights could be commercialised after meeting the government requirements.
He said, “These are chartered flights. Although international flights have been banned, you can always arrange group charters. That is what they are doing now. This means that they can get special flight permits for one flight and they will sell off all the seats in both directions.
“The airspace is open and international flights have not yet been opened. The government can, however, allow international flights. They call them evacuation flights. Either way you look at it, it is commercial because the people have to pay money.
“But as evacuation flights, the charters have to fulfil some requirements from the government. Technically, it is only scheduled international flights that are banned. Both for domestic and international flights, chartered flights can operate. What that means is that you can apply to the minister to get clearance after which you can operate your flights. That is how it is done.”
Charter Airlines: Some Nigerians travel after clearance from three govt ministries – Pilot
A pilot one of the airlines, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the charter airlines are often patronised by Nigerians who prefer less crowded planes because of the fear of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The pilot, who also does charter business, noted that although the country’s airspace was closed for international commercial flights, most of the rich Nigerians who were travelling abroad on their private jets or chartered aircraft, had got clearance from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Health and Ministry of Aviation.
He said, “So yes, the airspace is closed for general commercial flights but we can call what is going on repatriation flights and private charter flights. They will advertise them and call for people to come. It is a special VIP flight. But they must have been approved by the Ministries of Aviation, Health and Foreign Affairs. The airline would be fined heavily if this is not done.
“There are flights for repatriation but if the government is not paying, I have the right to choose the flight I want. A lot of people won’t go crowded planes.”
FG’s special flights have been abused
The Secretary-General, Aviation Safety Round Table Initiative, and an aviation security consultant, Group Capt. John Ojikutu (retd.), said the special flights plan of government had been abused.
He said there was a need to define what the government meant by special flights, as the aviation minister had earlier stated that only special flights were allowed to come in or move out internationally.
Ojikutu said, “Now, are such flights evacuation flights? Are the evacuations done by government or done by an individual? And, of course, an individual cannot evacuate himself.
“Evacuation needs to be done by government or an internationally recognised organisation such as the Red Cross, United Nations, who pay for the flight while moving people.”
He added, “But when an individual is now paying for his or her flight, I wonder what kind of evacuation that is, because such individual is now a passenger of that airline he is paying to.”
Ojikutu insisted that the government of a country or a reputable organisation should pay for an evacuation flight and not for an individual to pay for his or her own ticket.
“Now, I’ve also asked, are these airlines paying the statutory fees to government since the passengers are paying them for the tickets?” he asked.
He added, “Also the landing and parking charges, is FAAN collecting these stipulated charges? And this include chartered flights.”
On his part, a renowned aviation analyst, Olumide Ohunayo, stated that what the foreign airlines were doing was wrong.
“It is wrong to see that the process is ongoing despite the investigation that the NCAA has said that it will conduct,” he said.
He noted that international operators now boldly advertised flights and wondered what some of these foreign airlines were doing at the airports when there was supposed to be a ban on international travels.
Ohunayo said, “They are siphoning the funds of stranded Nigerians who need to get back into country.
“The solution right now is that the opening of the international airspace is long overdue and the government should urgently address that.”
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