By Louis Ibah
Aero Contractors Airlines has shut down all scheduled commercial flight operations in Nigeria, according to its Chief Executive Officer, Captain Fola Akinkuotu. “Aero Contractors has announced that it would suspend its scheduled services from Thursday September 1, 2016 and the development is part of the strategic business realignment to reposition the airline and return it to the part of profitability,” Akinkuotu said in a statement yesterday.
“The impact of the external environment has been very harsh on our operational performance, hence management decision to suspend scheduled services operations indefinitely effective September 1, 2016 pending when the external opportunities and a robust sustainable and viable plan is in place for Aero Contractors to recommence its scheduled services.
The implication of the suspension of scheduled services operations extends to all staffs directly and indirectly involved in providing services as they are effectively to proceed on indefinite leave of absence during the period of non-services,” the Chief Executive Officer stated.
The airline, in recent years, has been under the receivership of AMCON following its inability to repay some of its debts to creditor banks in the country. Daily Sun learnt that Aero Contractors exposure to AMCON and other creditor financial institutions in Nigeria is in excess of N30billion. It was also learnt that from a fleet of over nine aircraft which serviced both domestic and regional routes, Aero’s aircraft fleet had shrunk to just one in the last one month, an indication that the airline was drifting towards an imminent bust. Infact, only last month, Aero had pulled out of the Accra route owing to its inability to muster the requisite finances to undertake mandatory maintenance checks on its aircraft on that route. It was also learnt that a foreign carrier that had leased one of its aircraft to Aero had recently cancelled the lease deal and ordered the airline to return the aircraft back. Akinkuotu said “the airline has faced grave challenges in the past six months which impacted its business and by extension the scheduled services operations.”. These factors, according to him are both internal and external environmental factors that have made it difficult for the foremost airline to continue its scheduled services.
He said during the period in review, Aero, which was hitherto revered for its safety, timeliness among other virtues witnessed epileptic operations and services to the external publics that are caused by non-alignment of fundamental issue of the business, which in some cases have been frustrating and embarrassing to all parties including staff, customers and indeed all stakeholders.
As part of its resolve to ensure the airline survived unlike most other carriers that experienced short life span in the country, AMCON had appointed Mr. Adeniyi Adegbomire SAN as Receiver Manager in February 6, 2016, with the aim of turning the airline around. Since AMCON’s intervention in Aero Contractors in 2011, it has provided support for the airline to meet working capital requirements and fleet expansion. These were to ensure the airline remains a going concern providing services to various clients and the general public.
Unfortunately, the operating environment within and outside the airline have hindered any possible progress especially in the last six months when the Naira depreciated against the dollar thus making it impossible for the airline to achieve its operational targets.
With these realities coupled with protracted engagements with all relevant stakeholders, the Management of Aero has strenuously reviewed and assessed options and opportunities on ensuring viability, safety and sustainability of operations during the period with a lot of sacrifices.
“We are aware of the impact this will have on our staff and our highly esteemed customers, hence we have initiated moves to ensure that we are able to return back to operations within the shortest possible time, offering reliable, safe and secure operations, which the airline is known for,” Akinkuotu stated in the statement.