The failure of the management of Azman Air to return four of its aircraft that were pulled out of service for maintenance has compelled the airline to quit operations.
This is as a source close to the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has confided in our correspondent that the apex regulatory body has been holding a marathon meeting with the management of the airline, susceptibly on its future plans.
Shortage of funds
A source close to the airline confided in Nairametrics on Wednesday that two out of the four aircraft were taken out to Turkey for C-checks in a Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) facility recognised by the NCAA, while the other two remained in an MRO facility in Nigeria.
Azman at its peak had about seven aircraft, including leased airplanes, which were Airbus A320 and A330, while the remaining five were Boeing 737 aircraft.
The source told our correspondent that while the leased aircraft had been returned to their original owners, the four other aircraft owned by the airline were due for maintenance at different times, but the management could not raise funds to conduct checks on them.
The average age of aircraft in the fleet of the airline is 25 years.
It costs an average of $1.8 million to carry out a comprehensive C-check on a Boeing 737 series.
Effect of fluctuating naira and its crash in recent times
The four aircraft out for maintenance according to our source were Boeing 737-300 with the registration number: 5N-HAI, which was acquired in November 2013, the current age is 25.4 years.
Also, another B737-300 aircraft with the registration number: 5N-YSM, was also acquired by the airline in November 2013. The current age is 26.5 years.
The other two are B737-500 series with the registration numbers: 5N-AIS and 5N-HBY, which were acquired in November 2016 and December 2019, respectively. The two airplanes are between 24.9 years and 24.5 years.
Also, the source attributed the fluctuating Nigerian currency and its crash in recent times to the failure of the airline to raise the necessary funds to bring back the aircraft to operation.
The source said: “We couldn’t raise the necessary foreign exchange to bring back the aircraft to operations. Don’t forget that the naira had dropped in recent times and it has even continued to drop with this government. Currently, a dollar is over N900. Which market can sustain that?
“We are not the only ones affected by this challenge. Every airline is going through the same in our clime. I can tell you the fleets of most of the airlines have plummeted. They can’t bring back their aircraft from maintenance bases either in Nigeria or abroad. We sell in naira and we carry out virtually every form of our operations in dollars. We buy spare parts in dollars, insurance, which we do in dollars. The equipment we use is acquired in dollars. There is no part of the aircraft that we manufacture here. So, the terrain is tough. More airlines will go down.”
What you should know
It was also gathered that the NCAA management had been having a series of meetings with the management of the airline since Tuesday.
The Wednesday meeting with the Directorate of Air Transport and Regulations (DATR) at the headquarters of NCAA in Abuja on Wednesday ran till night.
But, Nairametrics was yet to get the outcome of the meeting, but a source said “it was not fruitful.”
However, Mr. Nurudden Aliyu, the spokesman for Azman Air, clarified to our correspondent that its management only suspended its operations and not closed down the airline.
Aliyu confirmed to our correspondent that the absence of equipment compelled the management to take that decision and assured that it would return to service when the aircraft returned.
Aliyu asserted that two of the four aircraft would return to service in the first week of October from Turkey, while the other two would return later in the same month.
He said when the first two return, the workers who were issued leave letters would have returned, while the second batch of the staff would return before the end of October.
He said: “We are not ceasing our operations. We only suspended it. We have pulled out four of our airplanes for maintenance. We had hoped that they would return immediately, but since we could not get them back, we had to send our staff on leave of absence. But we are coming back, I can assure you of that.”
Azman Air had begun scheduled services in 2014 with its first flight from Lagos to Kano.
The airline commenced services with two B737-300 aircraft and gradually grew the fleet.
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