Nigeria Airways workers continue protest

Lagos- Nigeria (PANA) -- Protest by workers of the Nigeria Airways, which has been prevented from resuming flights on the Lagos-London route by the British government, continued in Lagos Friday, with Britain insisting its action was based on safety concerns.
But unlike the situation on Thursday, flights were not disrupted at Nigeria's main gateway, the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Ikeja, due to the intervention of the Managing Director of Nigeria Airways, Yomi Jones.
Jones told angry workers, who were about marching to the offices of the Virgin Atlantic to disrupt its flight, to keep the peace while protesting the British government's action.
"I don't want people to hijack the sincere expression of feelings by humble people like you," he told the workers.
"We have competitors.
They can only thrive when you are in turmoil," Jones said.
The workers, joined by more than 100 passengers who waited in vain for the Boeing 747-200 aircraft leased from Air Djibouti to fly them to London, are angry that the airline's return to the lucrative route has been aborted.
They vowed to continue with the protest until the Nigerian government took a retaliatory measure against the British airlines plying the route.
The workers said the withdrawal of the permission granted Nigeria Airways 3 August was aimed at protecting the two British airlines on the route, especially as the Nigeria Airways had announced a low (return) fare of 499 US dollars for passengers.
But the British High Commission in Nigeria denied the charges, saying the decision was to satisfy safety concerns over the use of the plane.
The High Commission said in a statement that the approval was withdrawn after a report by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) 6 August, raised safety concerns on the Djibouti aircraft.
"The UK only became aware of the ICAO report on Djibouti after permission had been given to Nigeria Airways to commence services," the statement added.
But Nigeria Airways has countered, saying the plane had just come back from a major check in one of the best maintenance outfits in the world, the FLS in Dublin.
"The UK knows every information about the aircraft.
The ownership, its airworthiness and maintenance records were clearly stated," Nigeria Airways spokesman Chris Aligbe told PANA Friday.
"The owners of the aircraft were asked to send (it) to UK for maintenance and (to) rectify any snag to make sure it meets the UK Civil Aviation standards, and the aircraft was sent to Dublin, one of the world's renowned maintenance yards," he said.
Meanwhile, Nigeria Airways has appealed to the more than 1,000 passengers booked on its Lagos-London flights to bear with it while the issue is being sorted out.
"We wish to appeal to our numerous customers to note the above development and bear with us while efforts are being made at all levels to solve the impasse.
"Management had since made this present position known to government and our High Commissioner in the UK," the national carrier said.
The Nigeria Airways, whose fortunes have dwindled in recent years, needs to resume the Lagos-London flights to stay afloat after its money-spinning joint venture agreement on the route with British Airways collapsed.
The Nigerian airline stopped its operations on the route about three years ago due to huge debts and lack of equipment.
Under a dual-designation agreement signed by Nigerian and British governments earlier this year, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic operate a total of 14 flights per week on the route.
Nigeria is yet to designate a second airline to fly the route.

17 august 2001 16:47:00

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