Ado Sanusi is the managing director, Aero Contractors. In this interview with IFEOMA OKEKE at the unveiling of a new uniform and accessories at Murtala Muhammed Airport Terminal Two (MMA2), Lagos, he spoke about the airline’s plans to add more routes to its network as it continues to get more patronage largely due to its Maintenance Repair and Overhaul (MRO) facility.
Why have you decided to unveil a new uniform and accessories for your cabin?
We are celebrating the new face of the cabin crew of Aero Contractors and we are also unveiling the successes that have been achieved over the last 24 months that I have been in the seat of managing the airline. The first thing we did was to unveil the new face of cabin services and also to tell you that we are opening new routes to serve our passengers better.
What are the new routes you are opening?
We are starting new routes and we are also reinstating those routes that we suspended. When I joined we were doing eight flights a day, we were servicing only Abuja and Port Harcourt. In the past 24 months, we have increased to more than 30 flights daily. We were carrying close to 8,000 passengers a month, now we are carrying almost 33,000 passengers every month. We have included Kano, we introduced more frequencies into Abuja, Abuja-Asaba, Warri, Uyo and we are now in the process of introducing Yola. We will have Lagos-Yola and Abuja-Yola, Yola-Abuja and Yola-Lagos. This will open more routes to our passengers. Sokoto bound passengers going to Yola can come and join our Yola flight and those from Asaba can join our Yola flight. We are opening up Nigeria for our esteemed passengers. We believe that by the end of the first half of this year, we will have opened new routes in the Eastern part of the county. We are looking at Owerri and Enugu and it will come very soon. Uyo was there before, so we are reinstating it.
Are you getting more aircraft for these new routes you are opening?
We started with one aircraft in the beginning of 2017 and now we have four airplanes. We intend to bring more airplanes into the system. We have two aircraft that we want to conduct C-checks on if the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority of Nigeria, (NCAA) gives us the go ahead to do that. We will conduct two C-checks on two 737 aircraft. Our aim is to have a 15 aircraft airline. What we have done today is that we are telling the passengers that we are back and we pride in safety and reliability, which is the best way to fly in Aero.
How is your maintenance facility?
The Maintenance Repair Overhaul (MRO) is doing very well and I am very happy about it. They say charity begins at home. We have done three C-checks in-house, that means we have done C-checks on three aircraft for Aero Contractors. We have done a couple of 18-months checks for our customers, Nigerian airlines. We are about to do a C-check on another airline. We have a couple of Nigerian airlines that are lined up for C-checks. We are not interested in making mega profit now. What we are interested in is to develop the place and to ensure that we serve our customers. We want a situation where the Nigerian airlines are very comfortable bringing their airplanes here and we want to deliver their airplanes better than what they get outside the country.
When are you signing the deal with Ghana to start their C-checks?
We are happy to inform you that the Ghana Civil Aviation Authority has given us the authority to do checks on the aircraft that are registered in their country and we have done a lot of major maintenance for their aircraft. We are also looking at the Congolese government, who have shown interest in coming to give us the approval to do C-checks and other major checks in their country.
ECOWAS has taken recognition of your maintenance facility. What does this mean for Aero?
We have been called several times to attend meetings with ECOWAS because we were informed that ECOWAS is interested in opening a regional maintenance facilities and the West African countries are bidding to host that maintenance facility. Nigeria is part of the countries that are bidding for that and the committee has come to us and we have shown them our capability and based on that, we have seen that they are very comfortable with us and I believe Nigeria has a very strong case to host the regional maintenance facility that the airports are willing to develop.
We have entered into a joint venture with a Nigerian company to operate jointly their choppers. We have increased the number of helicopters we have in our fleet from three to seven and we intend to increase it to ten. Aero contractors used to operate over 30 helicopters out of the Niger Delta area and we were serving all the Gulf of Guinea regions and we want to go back to that. We want to put our foot-print to ensure we are a force to reckon with as far as logistics in oil and gas is concerned.
What are the prospects for Nigerian airlines in 2019?
I am appealing to the Federal Government to look inwards into the aviation industry to make sure that the industry is put on the front burner so that we can reap the benefits of aviation in the growth of the economy. We can just look at what the aviation industry has done for many countries. We can look at RwandAir and what it has done to the economy of Rwanda. We can look at what Emirates has done to the economy of UAE. You can keep looking at what airlines have done to the economies of various countries and I believe that the Federal Government can see that developing aviation is key to the success of the economy.