By Sade Williams/business a.m.
The management of Aero Contractors has described as unfounded all the allegations levelled against it by aviation unions.
Aero said the unions, National Union of Air Transport Employees ((NUATE) and Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN), at a press conference in Lagos accused it of, among other things, stifling the finances of the company through the operations of House of 5A’s leased aircraft, rather than improving it.
“Whereas the contract was for the purpose of expanding the airline’s network, the leased aircraft somehow supplanted all Aero aircraft on its juicy routes, pushing Aero aircraft to fringe routes with limited passenger intakes. For the period that the lease lasted, the entire Aero Contractors was essentially working for House of 5A’s, as the lessor was making more money than the Airline itself. No wonder the Airline ran itself into a deep financial crisis and began to owe salaries, unprecedentedly. But for the intervention of the unions, which threatened to direct workers to withdraw services to the leased aircraft, Aero would still have been under the bondage of the House of 5A’s contract. So, who arranged such a murky lease? And was it a deliberate ploy to bring the airline down?” they asked.
The unions also queried the appointment of Charles Johnson-Arumemi at Aero.
“We note, and question the rationale of seconding Mr. Charles Johnson-Arumeme from Arik Air to Aero as commercial manager. Mr. Johnson-Arumeme it was who drew up the schedule that granted Aero’s juicy routes to House of 5A’s. The same Mr. Johnson Arumeme has overseen the bastardization of the Aero online sales portal to deliberately render it thoroughly defective,” they added.
But Aero in a swift reaction said: “All the allegations about the managing director of House of 5A’s and Charles Arumemi Johnson are unfounded. Charles, is a very competent staff of Arik Air owned by AMCON, which equally owns Aero Contractors; therefore there is no conflict of interest. He is instrumental to the recently launched Aero portal, which has given the site a face lift and made it more user friendly compared to the previous website.
“On the House of 5A’s, every partnership was done with the aim of improving the revenues of the airline, particularly in relation to our unserviceable equipment and ensuring standard customer service. The question is what was our revenue before, during and after the exit of House of 5As? They should please respond.”
While describing the allegations as wild and unfounded, the airline noted further that, “it is pure mischief that when things are rosy the unions keep quiet, but when challenges occur they quickly run around with wild allegations and threats.
“It is in this regard that we are at a loss, why the staff, knowing the challenges airlines are facing in the current operating environment, are always in a haste to compromise confidential information to the public and make it an issue of discussion.
“We are conscious of the challenges we are facing and have been prudent with our expenses, and doing our best to take care of staff welfare. We urge the staff and unions to desist from this attitude and support the company to overcome its challenges,” it added.
The management explained that it decided to create the four Strategic Business Units (SBUs): Maintenance Repair Overhaul (MRO), Aviation Training Organisation (ATO), Airline Operation and Rotary Wing, to enhance efficiency and profitability.
“There’s no Nigerian carrier without debt overhang caused by the operating environment. And all major airlines in the world have had similar challenges, but took strategic measures to turn around the airlines. It is unfortunate that the airline industry operates on thin margins and airlines are always making efforts to be leaner and smarter to stay afloat.
“Whatever management decisions are taken are usually done with the engagement of the unions. It is at the instance of the unions the chief executive officer called for a Town Hall meeting last week. We believe that as the revenues begin to improve over the next few months, following strategic engagements with potential partners, the airline’s fortune will improve.
“We recognize the huge and massive potentials of Aero Contractors and are taking strategic steps to exploit them for the benefits of all stakeholders in these challenging times,” it further explained.