Aero Contractors Airlines will resume flights this week after shutting down for nearly nearly four months, TheCable understands.
The airline, which used to be industry leader before entering economic turbulence, suspended operations “indefinitely” from September 1, 2016.
But insiders told TheCable that the airline will resume operations “most likely on Wednesday” after securing new investors and getting a breather.
“If things work according to plan, the staff will be recalled and addressed on Monday, IT staff will resume on Tuesday and flight operations will commence on Wednesday,” the source said.
Aero will restart by flying only three routes: Abuja, Lagos and Port Harcourt.
This will come as a relief to Nigerian travellers who have had their options limited since the aviation industry went into a tailspin following financial and fuel crises.
TheCable could not confirm if the airline got foreign investors to re-start operations.
When Aero suspended operations, its CEO, Fola Akinkuotu, had said it was pursuing a “strategic business realignment” to reposition the airline and return it to the path of profitability.
“This business decision is as a result of the current economic situation in the country, which has forced some other airlines to suspend operation or outrightly pull out of Nigeria,” he said.
“In the case of Aero, the airline has faced grave challenges in the past six months, which impacted its business and by extension the scheduled services operations.
“This suspension is 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 staff directly and indirectly involved in providing services, as they are effectively to proceed on indefinite leave of absence during the period of non-services.
“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.’
Hundreds of its employees staged a peaceful protest after the suspension of operations which they blamed on the Asset Management Company of Nigeria (AMCON), the “bad bank” set up by the central bank to buy the debts of heavily indebted companies.
NAN reported that the protest was organised by the Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN) and National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE).
The workers marched round the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos, carrying various placards expressing their grievances.
The placards had inscriptions such as, ‘Don’t Allow Aero to Die,’ ‘Save Aero from AMCON’ and ‘Aero must not go the way of Nigeria Airways,’ among others.
Speaking on behalf of the protesters, Frances Akinjole, the Secretary, ATSSSAN, condemned the ‘illegal closure’ of Aero Contractors by AMCON, adding that they would resist the plan to liquidate the company.
Akinjole accused AMCON of running the airline aground after it took over majority shares in 2011 by approving bogus salaries and allowances for its representatives.
“Before AMCON took over, the airline had 11 operational aeroplane. They claim to have injected N12 billion in the company, but today, the airline has only three aircraft,” she said.
“This is calling on all well-meaning Nigerians to please come to the aid of Aero at this crucial time in her life.
“Aero should not be allowed to die from the strangle of AMCON.”