• Thursday, July 25, 2024
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BusinessDay

Delaying pilots’ visas, work permits denies Nigerians quality air travel

Delaying pilots’ visas, work permits denies Nigerians quality air travel

In recent weeks, air travel has been challenging for many Nigerians who either had their flights delayed or out rightly cancelled. This especially affected intending travellers on Air Peace, Nigeria’s largest airline, which was unable to operate a number of its aircraft due to delays in renewing visas and securing work permits for its foreign pilots and crew.

The situation forced the airline to ground several of its aircraft, creating the inevitable outcome of unpleasant passenger experiences. It should be stated that the situation did not occur because Nigeria lacks local pilots, rather, because these foreign pilots and crew had requisite training and qualifications to fly some of the newer planes in Air Peace’s fleet.

BusinessDay had reported that Air Peace has over 23 foreign pilots and crew that are type-rated on its new Airbus 320 and Embraer 195 aircraft, which operate both local and international routes. Apart from these foreign pilots being mostly qualified to fly those planes, some of these aircraft are also wet-leased aircraft. This is an arrangement that covers the leasing of an aircraft alongside the flight crew and sometimes fuel. This also means that some of the aircraft are operated by the airline with a precondition of using the already assigned flight crew as part of the lease agreement.

But following the challenges in getting work permits and visas for its pilots, Air Peace which currently has 10 Airbus 320 and five Embraer 195 planes, has since grounded most of these aircraft. The pilots and crew have been unable to secure work permits from the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) that would have enabled them to work in Nigeria and contribute to serving the country’s flying public.

The Nigerian government, through the Immigration service, is failing the traveling public and Air Peace by failing to promptly grant work permit to the airline’s foreign pilots

Air travellers in Nigeria have for years yearned for better and newer airplanes to fly in and Air Peace responded by acquiring some of the most modern airplanes in the world today. This investment to deliver a better air travel experience to Nigerians also meant that Air Peace would have more foreign pilots and crew to man its growing fleet.

We find it unacceptable that an indigenous airline can acquire brand new planes faster than the Federal Government of Nigerian is able to issue a rather less complicated paper called work permit to enable the pilots to work. The Nigerian government, through the Immigration service, is failing the traveling public and Air Peace by failing to promptly grant work permits to the airline’s foreign pilots.

Read also: Air Peace blames flight disruptions on delays in pilots’ visa renewals

While the situation as already stated, has left many passengers stranded, the airline is also facing revenue shortages as several of these new aircraft had to be parked across the country, unable to operate. The airline has been losing money on account of this, and still has to maintain the planes and pay for parking charges, when it should instead be making money from operating those airplanes.

BusinessDay had also reported that the airline has been processing refunds for several of its affected passengers, with many opting to book alternative airlines to fly.

The Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) claims there were only a few days of downtime on its visa application portal due to some upgrades, and that service is back to normal, but we are yet to see evidence of this through provision of the requisite visas and work permits.

We find it strange that a country which claims to be aspiring to improve its ease of doing business, is making the issuance of work permits to expatriates a rocket science of sorts. The NIS needs to embrace efficiency and diligence in the discharge of its duties.