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Aero resumes flight operation after Senate’s intervention

By on April 1, 2013

Aerocontractors Airlines is expected to resume full flight operation today (Monday), 18 days after it suspended it following protests by workers over work conditions.

The airline had by the weekend commenced skeletal services, including test and positioning flights.

Efforts by the management of Nigeria’s second largest commercial airline to reorganise the 53-year-old airline for profitability after the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria converted its huge debt to a 60 per cent shareholding, had met with opposition from nearly all its 1,300 workers.

The reorganisation, which was to lead to the outsourcing of some departments in the airline to other firms, according to observers and analysts, was improperly handled by the management.

The situation led to a protest by the workers on March 13, 2013 and the Aero management subsequently suspended flight operations and reportedly dismissed over 600 workers, who allegedly participated in the protest.

The workers had continued to picket the airline head office in Lagos since then.

The Senate Committee on Aviation intervened in the crisis on Thursday and subsequently advised the airline to resume operations.

Sources familiar with the situation said the senate committee, after a joint meeting with the management of Aero, workers representatives and the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority in Abuja on Thursday, directed the airline to call back the workers and resume operations immediately.

The Senate was also said to have directed the management to invite the union leaders for negotiations on its plans to reorganise the airline.

The National President, Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, Mr. Benjamin Okewu, confirmed the meeting in Abuja.

He also confirmed that the airline had resumed operations following the directive.

Aero spokesman also confirmed the airline had resumes operation.

The airline was, however, silent on refunds for intending passengers who had bought tickets before the crisis, especially air travellers who were to fly the carrier during the Easter holidays.

The airline did not also comment on how it planned to execute its restructuring and reorganisation plan.

Its spokesperson, however, said the airline would issue a statement during the week.

But a top official of Aero said it was good the “airline reorganise for profitability but there is need to properly pay necessary severance package for workers who have worked with the airline for many years.”

The official said, “What Aero management is trying to do is very good, but they need to pay the workers what is due to them. If the management will lay off; let it do so following relevant labour laws rather than doing so without paying the workers their entitlements.

“I think the management has since realised that. It was just an ego thing that did not just make them to resume before now.”

The absence of Aero in the domestic travel scene during the Easter rush created a chaotic situation for air travellers. Fares became high and a lot of passengers were stranded even as flight scarcity forced intending air travellers to postpone their trips.