Union rallies support for local airlines
Workers in the aviation sector have urged the Federal Government to rally behind domestic airlines to take advantage of some foreign airlines that are either leaving or reducing operations in the country.
The workers, under the aegis of National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers (NAAPE), said that the domestic airlines indeed needed support to become stronger for competition on the international front.
President of the association, Engr. Isaac Balami, predicted that more foreign airlines would still leave the Nigerian airspace as a result of the biting economic situation, but the onus is on domestic operators to fill the vacuum.
Balami said: “I see it as an opportunity for our airlines to come up. Let the likes of Arik, Med-View and other airlines that want to fly international bring in powerful machines such as Air buses to compete.
“Airlines must take advantage of foreign airlines pulling out of the country to step up their game and government must encourage strong local airlines to take over their slots and before they come back, we have already taken our shares,” he said.
Balami, however, ruled out another financial bailout for the airlines. Instead, he said government could assist airlines by making available an aircraft leasing programme for all operators.
According to him, “Don’t give airlines money. If you want to help airlines, give them aircraft, lease planes to them to compete with other world airlines. Let the airlines have access to good aircraft, spare parts and let aviation fuel be made available because even if you give them 50 brand-new planes without aviation fuel price resolved, they will still go down.”
On the domination of the country’s aviation sector by expatriates, Balami said government must enact laws to protect indigenous pilots and engineers’ jobs by not allowing their foreign counterparts to take over their jobs.
He emphasized that there was need for job protection and government should discourage foreigners from taken over the jobs their local engineers and pilots can do.
The president noted that the absence of Maintenance Repair and Overhaul (MRO) facility in the country had affected operations of airlines in the country negatively, though expressed hope that the Hangar in Uyo, built by the Akwa Ibom State government, would soon start operations as arrangement was in top gear to put it into use.
He explained that Nigerian engineers can now conduct A, C and D-Checks on aircraft in the country but lamented the absence of the facilities, which has affected their operations and called on the government to support the MRO.