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$3,000fee:Charter flight operators suspend services indefinitely


Over 20 charter flight operators in the country have suspended their services indefinitely.

The suspension was as a result of the $3,000 fee imposed by the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency on airlines involved in non-scheduled operations, it was learnt on Wednesday.

The spokesperson for the carriers, who is also a senior official of the Airline Operators of Nigeria, Mr. Mohammed Tukur, told our correspondent that the private airlines had decided to embark on an indefinite strike.

NAMA on Monday announced that all foreign registered aircraft engaging in non-scheduled operations would from November 18, 2013, pay the sum of $3,000 as departure fee except for round trips without changes in passenger manifest, or return ferry.

It also stated that all registered Nigerian aircraft that engaged in non-scheduled operations would henceforth pay the sum of $2,500 before every departure.

Tukur said, "We have been on strike since yesterday (Tuesday) and we have not operated since then. When I say we, I mean the private jet owners, especially those who are on charter operations and there are about 20 airlines that have been on strike since then.

"For instance, Arik Air has its own small aircraft that can be used for charter services but right now, they are grounded and are not in operation. So, no airline that is involved in charter flight is operating."

He named some of the carriers involved in the industrial action as Skypower Express Airways, Gyro Air, Skyjet Air, Skybird Air, Kings Air and Jedd Air.

Others are Izy Air, Topbrass Air, Air Ambulance, Pan African Air and Weaslink Air.

The President, Aviation Round Table, a body of industry professionals, Capt. Dele Ore, expressed doubt if the proceeds from the charges would be used to develop the sector.

He said, "I am not convinced that this is not just another way of collecting money without judiciously using it. Because there is so much money in the system, there is a lot of misappropriation.

"If they are going to use this to improve the system, then it will be okay. If they collect this amount, it should not end up in some people's pockets or be used for irrelevant things."

Ore warned that other countries might be forced to do the same to Nigerian airlines operating outside the country, adding, "If we are doing something that we cannot defend, He stated that airlines and passengers would suffer the outcome of such policy, as the carriers were bound to pass the exorbitant charges to the air travellers.

The spokesperson for NAMA, Mr. Supo Atobatele, said the airlines were being charged "on the basis of pay-as-you-go." services that they enjoy."

NAMA said that serious non-scheduled flight operators were still flying.

The agency refuted the claims that non-scheduled operators had been grounded.

A statement by the agency said, "We wish to inform the public, especially aviation stakeholders, that serious non-scheduled operators are still operating their normal flights at our various airports.

"The few operators who could not operate are those who have yet to comply with the new regime.

"As of midday today (Wednesday), more than 30 operators had paid the requisite fee and are freely enjoying our services."

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