Over one year after the expiration of their Airline Operator Certificates, some charter airlines are yet to get recertification, MAUREEN IHUA-MADUNEYI reports.
Eleven non-scheduled airlines involved in charter flight services failed to renew their Air Operator Certificates which expired between 2018 and mid-2019.
There are about 39 scheduled and non-scheduled domestic airlines in the country. Thirty of the airlines are charter flight operators while nine are scheduled flight operators.
One charter flight operator’s certificate has been suspended, two are inactive and eight are currently expired.
Data gathered from the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority showed that four of the charter airline’s AOCs expired since 2018.
The remaining seven operators’ certificates expired at different times in 2019, the latest being in the month of August.
Upon expiration of an AOC, an operator is expected to have it renewed in 90 days, failure to do this renders the airline inactive.
It was also gathered that an operator may be required to start the process all over again if it wants to renew the AOC after the 90-day period.
An AOC is a certificate authorising a firm to perform specific commercial air transport operations either as scheduled or non-scheduled operator.
It is issued by the NCAA once an intending operator has the required personnel, assets and systems in place to ensure the safety of its employees and the general public.
An AOC applicant must also have an Air Transport Licence issued by the NCAA and permits the holder to operate passenger or cargo air services.
Once obtained, an AOC lasts for two year before recertification.
According to the General Manager, Public Relations, NCAA, Mr Sam Adurogboye, the process of getting an AOC to run an airline whether scheduled, non-scheduled or private is rigorous and capital intensive at the initial stage.
He said unlike the initial process, done in five stages, recertification involved mainly paper work but delays could come from the applicant if they failed to meet the requirements early.
Adurogboye stated that some of the airlines were already at various stages of renewal but were yet to complete the process.
He explained that the process of getting or renewing an AOC, though capital intensive, was standard practice all over the world to ensure that the operator had the necessary requirements to run an airline.
The NCAA spokesperson said, “Some of the processes will require spending. So whatever time is specified, meeting the requirements depends on the applicant. It is not sacrosanct.
“If for instance you say it is three months for recertification and the person requires about N300m, he may apply for due process which takes a minimum of nine months before it is ready.
“But because the airline already met the requirements for an AOC and is a running organisation, they may be given time to revalidate the AOC. But if we have to revoke it for any reason, the person will begin the process all over again.”
The Head of Research and Corporate Travel at Zenith Travel, Mr Olumide Ohunayo, said some of the challenges confronting airlines and even those intending to get an AOC or revalidate an existing one included paucity of funding, manpower and equipment.
He stated that funding could become a problem if investors pulled out, if liability exceeded assets and when the minimum bank deposit required could not be met.
“Again, some critical operations staff as specified in the Civil Aviation Regulations may not be available or the airline’s aircraft and spares required by regulations are unavailable,” he added.
The NCAA had in early 2019 threatened to revoke the AOCs of unauthorised charter flight operators, adding that only holders of valid Air Transport Licence, Airline Operating Permit and AOC were allowed to operate non-scheduled flights.
Following the warning, the regulatory agency had gone ahead to list the current certified charter operators.
Stakeholders posit that airlines are constrained by so many challenges that undermine the investment in their operations.
This, they noted, included the fact that even with the harsh business environment that airlines endured, Nigerians paid some of the cheapest air fares in the world.
But despite the operating environment and the rigorous process as well as the multi-billion naira investment involved, many investors still apply for the AOCs from time to time to run airlines.
In a recent interview with The PUNCH, the Chief Operating Officer of Dana Air, Mr Obi Mbanuzuo, said most investors coming into the industry only saw the glamorous side of the business.
He said most of them would not be aware of some of the challenges until they started the process.
He added, “The aviation industry is glamorous. So, some moneybags come in without reckoning with the cost. I wouldn’t know who is coming in next but the people underestimate the industry and when they come in, they understand better.
“First and foremost, the regulator does not allow you to have just two airplanes for scheduled flight service. Although there are many other things to do in the industry, people don’t do them. They prefer to run an airline, without knowing the challenges.”
Ohunayo said it had become necessary for the Federal Government to look into airlines’ operating environment from airport infrastructure to maintenance schedule.
“The recent embarrassment of international flights landing in Accra, Ghana and Cotonou, Benin Republic says it all,” he added.
He said the government should consider being only the regulator and commercialise other services within the industry.