Firstnation Airways has outlined scarcity of foreign exchange (FOREX), high cost and scarcity of Jet A1 (aviation fuel) among others as major challenges confronting it.
The airline in a recent media briefing explained that sourcing forex coupled with the constant change of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) policies and Rate of Exchange (ROE) sometimes leave the airline in situations where aircraft parts cannot be obtained when ordered.
Director of Flight Operations, Captain Chimara Imediegwu, while speaking at the briefing said this was due to banks inability to transfer forex based on bids and maintenance schedules programmed with external Maintenance and Repair Organisation (MRO) providers.
According to him in order to reduce the disruption caused by forex transfer the airline is sometimes compelled to source forex from the parallel market at a cut throat rate; mostly in hundreds of thousands of dollars.
“In order to remain within the triple SSS; Safety Schedule and Service boundary, effectively regulating ourselves, FirstNation voluntarily grounded these aircraft though at enormous cost to await the arrival of the manufacturer’s team.”
Continuing, Imediegwu lamented the diversion of Jet A1 to serve as kerosene for household use, noting that this has contributed in no small measure to the scarcity and price hike of Jet A1, which invariably poses a challenge in operations not just for FirstNation but other domestic airlines.
With the attendant difficulty in sourcing aviation fuel, he said domestic airlines are forced to go as far as Ghana to buy fuel
“As of today, a litre of Jet A1 sells for between N195 and N200 while a litre of kerosene goes for N400 thus the need to use aviation fuel to substitute for kerosene basically because aviation fuel is kerosene only more refined with some chemicals,” he said.
In view of these challenges, he said the airline planned well ahead and kept the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) informed of the progress of the maintenance of its aircraft.
The airline had in an online statement stated that it suspended flight operations, because it was carrying out maintenance on A319 fleet and that this maintenance exercise will be completed on or before September 15, 2016.
He said: “We actually had just received one of them (the aircraft) from a heavy maintenance early this year while preparing for the departure of the next for maintenance, the former and rejuvenated aircraft developed a fault. This called for immediate action with the manufacturer’s specialists. We arrived at a decision to get them to come in and do a final job on it .The authority was constantly kept in the know, formally.”
However, Imediegwu assured that all things being equal, FirstNation will on Thursday, September 15, resume flight operations.
“The airline planned these maintenance action well ahead, notified passengers and flights are currently loaded online effective September 15, 2016 – this will ensure that passengers continue to enjoy safe and reliable service that the airline is reputed for. Current foreign exchange constraint, coupled with over 70 per cent devaluation of Naira partly contributed in no small measure to this development,” he said, adding that the airline’s plan remains on track to reinstating service as advised herein.