AIB Stepping Up Measures To Enhance Air Safety – Mukthar Usman

The Accident Investigation Bureau has said that it is stepping up measures in its bid to promote safety in the nation’s airspace.

One of these measures is creating a prevention roadmap by putting its new download laboratory to pro-active use by studying data from aircraft recorders.

This was made known by the commissioner of the bureau, Captain Mukhtar Usman, who added that several of its safety recommendations from past accident investigations have been implemented.

 

 

Foreign airlines are exploitating Nigerian – Foreign Affairs Minister

Foreign affairs Minister, Mr Olugbenga Ashiru has accused foreign airlines operating in the nation’s airspace of being exploitative with the huge airfares charged Nigerians when compared with other routes in Africa.

The minister made the remark when he appeared before the Senate Committee on Aviation investigating the violation of aviation laws and practices by foreign airlines in Nigeria and lapses in the operation of the regulatory agencies.

According to the Minister, “a 6hour first class/business class flight from Lagos/Abuja to London ranges from $11,000 to $12,000 while a 12hour, first class or business class flight from Johannesburg to London cost $6,000.” “Why is this “he further asked, quipping that “this is nothing but exploitation by the foreign airlines.”

Mr Ashiru demanded an explanation form the airlines on why Nigerians are made to pay such high fares.

The Nigerian envoy also blamed regulatory agencies in the aviation industry for the disparity in fares charged by airline operators in the country. He noted that the regulatory agencies refused to moderate and ensure uniform fares among all operating airlines.

BA and Virgin’s airfare collusion

However, Director-General, Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Dr. Harold Demuren, accused British Airways of colluding with Virgin Atlantic Airways to exploit Nigerians by engaging in price-fixing.

Dr Demuren, told the public hearing that “BA and VAA coordinated and cooperated in fixing, periodically raising and maintaining the Passenger Fuel Surcharge (PFS) with respect to travel including to and from Nigeria.”

“The PFS, having been discovered not to be what BA and VAA portrayed it to be, was a special device that deprived the federal government of legitimate revenue that should have been derived from the statutory five per cent of the Ticket Sales Charge.”

According to him, BA and VAA had earlier admitted to the same misconduct in the US and the UK and they are already compensating travellers in those countries.

The DG also noted that the regional imbalance in airfares was no longer acceptable and both airlines should begin to make refunds to Nigerians.

Responding to the allegations, British Airways’ country manager, Mr. Kolawole Olayinka, said it was unfortunate that the profitability of the airline was being discussed in the Senate.

According to him, there is no law that the airlines should pay five per cent of the PFS to the NCAA as it did for the TSC, adding that should such legal explanation come to the notice of the airline, it would immediately comply.

The chairman, Senate committee on Aviation, Senator Hope Uzodinma said the committee will find out if any airline truly manipulated the PFS to the detriment of the Nigerian people and government.

The Senate committee also asked the aviation authority to restore the agreement which allows Nigeria and Britain equal slots and frequency for twenty-one landing slots which only the British airline enjoys full privilege while Nigeria’s flag carrying airline, Arik airline is left with only seven.

Present at the hearing was the deputy Senate president, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, who lamented the lack of a national carrier and advocated the return of national airline for the country.

The House of Representatives had held similar meetings with the major players in the aviation sector, to understand why the disparity in airfare charged by foreign airlines in Nigeria compared with other countries.

The Senate Committee on Aviation had summoned the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Olugbenga Ashiru, and all foreign airlines in the country to appear before it on Monday over alleged violation of aviation laws by the airlines.

Britain warns Nigeria over threats to ban BA and Virgin Atlantic

The British government on Monday warned that it would take retaliatory steps against Nigerian airlines, if the federal government bans the British Airways and Virgin Atlantic over fare disparity.

The British Airways had earlier said in a statement that all its fares were competitive and on a sound commercial basis.

Nigeria’s Aviation Minister, Stella Oduah, had over the weekend threatened to ban any foreign airline which failed to adjust its fares to reflect equity with their prevailing fares as is obtainable in other West Africa countries. She gave the airlines one month ultimatum to review their fares.

Reacting to the ultimatum on Monday night, Britain said banning private airlines would amount to a “heavy-handed action that would be catastrophic.”

Consequently, Britain said it would not hesitate to retaliate if the federal government goes ahead with the threat to ban the airlines after 30 days.
Britain said only business and first class fares were more expensive to Nigerians than neighbouring West Africa countries because of high demand for those seats.

It also said banning BA and Virgin would break a bilateral air services agreement between both countries.

“It (the ban) would cause potential foreign investors to question whether they want to put their money in Nigeria and have a long-term and damaging effect on Nigeria’s growth,” a British High Commission spokesman said.

“The Prime Minister and President Goodluck Jonathan signed a joint communique last year pledging to double bilateral trade. Action against BA and Virgin would damage that strategic aim,” the Spokesman said.

The fare dispute is running parallel to another row between Nigeria and Britain over airport landing slots.

Nigeria’s biggest carrier Arik Air stopped its daily flights between Abuja and London Heathrow on Monday because it was being prevented from getting arrival and departure slots at UK airports.

“It is wrong to suggest that Arik has been prevented from flying into Heathrow. Our understanding is that Arik is just unwilling to pay for the cost of renting or buying landing slots,” the British spokesman said.

He added that it was something all airlines who want new slots into Heathrow needed to do.

Mrs Oduah had argued that it was unfair for BA and Virgin to charge more to fly Nigerian than passengers from neighbouring West African countries.
“We are seriously concerned and worried by the reluctance to restore parity within the region by the foreign airlines,” she had said in a statement.

“They have been using all kinds of delay tactics, this is unacceptable and will no longer be tolerated. We will resolve this issue once and for all,” she had added.

Reacting to Mrs Oduah’s threat to ban the airline BA said: “British Airways is fully legally compliant with the requirements of the Air Services Agreement between the UK and Nigeria. We remain committed to Nigeria and continue to serve the country with daily flights to Lagos and Abuja.

“We have been flying there for more than 75 years and pride ourselves on offering competitive fares, a choice of products and connections to our Nigerian customers.

“All of our fares are set on a sound commercial basis and remain fully competitive with other carriers in the region including Arik Air.”

FG gives British Airways and Virgin Atlantic 30 days to reduce fare

The Federal government has given airlines British Airways (BA) and Virgin Atlantic 30 days to lower fares or face a ban from flying to Nigeria, the Minister of Aviation, Stella Oduah said on Monday.

Minister of Aviation, Stella Oduah said it is unfair that BA and Virgin charged more to fly to Nigeria than to neighbouring West African countries.

Britain responded by saying it could take retaliatory action against Nigerian airlines if a ban was imposed, and that “heavy-handed action” banning private airlines would be “catastrophic” for business confidence in the country.

Mrs Oduah has said it is unfair that BA and Virgin charged more to fly to Nigeria than to neighbouring West African countries.

Its civil aviation authority fined the two airlines last year a combined $235 million for fixing prices. BA, which is owned by International Airlines Group and Virgin, rejected the accusation.

“We are seriously concerned and worried by the reluctance to restore parity within the region by the foreign airlines,” Mrs Oduah said in a statement.
“They have been using all kinds of delay tactics, this is unacceptable and will no longer be tolerated… (we will) resolve this issue once and for all.”

Britain said only business and first class fares were more expensive to Nigeria than neighbouring countries because of high demand for those seats. It also said banning BA and Virgin would break a bilateral air services agreement.

“It (the ban) would cause potential foreign investors to question whether they want to put their money in Nigeria and have a long-term and damaging effect on Nigeria’s growth,” the British High Commission spokesman said.

“The prime minister and President (Goodluck) Jonathan signed a joint communique last year pledging to double bilateral trade. Action against BA and Virgin would damage that strategic aim.”

A BA official in Abuja declined to comment.

The fare dispute is running parallel to another row between Nigeria and Britain over airport landing slots.

Nigeria’s biggest carrier Arik Air said this month it would have to stop its daily flights between Abuja and London Heathrow because it was being prevented from getting arrival and departure slots at UK airports.

“It is wrong to suggest that Arik has been prevented from flying into Heathrow. Our understanding is that Arik is just unwilling to pay for the cost of renting or buying landing slots,” the British spokesman said, adding it was something all airlines who want new slots into Heathrow needed to do.