By Chinedu Eze
Nigeria’s major carrier, Medview Airline, yesterday airlifted about 249 passengers from Lagos to London Gatwick Airport, thus confirming that it was not banned by the European Union (EU) authorities as rumoured.
The flight which took off at 1:30p.m. was operated by a Boeing B747 aircraft with registration number TF-AFV, as the airline said it has not faced any inhibition to its operations to London since EU published the blacklisted airlines that were barred from operating to any EU destinations.
The Chief Operation Officer of the airline, Lookman Animashaun, told THISDAY at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos after the take off of the flight that when the airline saw the report on the blacklisting of some airlines, it issued a statement to explain the true situation of things to Nigerians.
Animashaun explained that Medview was directed to lease aircraft from any EU country, which has met the safety standards of the European Air Safety Agency (EASA) and that was what the airline did, and that it would continue to operate its flights to London uninhibited.
“When we saw the publication, we issued a statement telling Nigerians exactly the true position which you have also found out today. Even the day the publication came out, the flight to London on Wednesday came back on Thursday. We are not perturbed by all those things but we are concerned about the passengers who, one way or the other, would not know the correct situation, that is why we came up with that statement to inform them that the Lagos-London-Gatwick operation is normal and that is exactly what we have done,” the airline’s Chief Operating Officer said.
He also explained that the airline had been operating the Boeing B747 since late last year and that it has met all standard of safety as recommended by EASA.
“We have been using this aircraft since December when we have a very large volume of passengers on that route, recording over 450 passengers throughout December, January, February and March but now we are at a low season which is going to end by June, next month and we are going to take delivery of another Boeing B777 from Euro Atlantic and we would use the two of them (Boeing B747 and Boeing B777), depending on the level of passengers, we would now know which aircraft to use,” Animashaun said.
He noted there was need for the federal government to ensure that Nigerian airlines operate those international routes where a lot of Nigerians travel in order to check exploitative and cut-throat fares, which foreign airlines introduce when there are no local carriers operating such routes, adding that Nigerian airlines put a check on such outrageous fares because they always charge affordable fares as a way of supporting fellow citizens.
“As at today, we have been able to stabilise the fare for the London route to a large extent. In the past, as at this month, the ticket would have been going for 1,000 to 1,200 Pounds for Economy Class but none of the foreign airlines can sell a ticket more than 500 Pounds as we speak. If they do, they would not have passengers.
“I urge Nigerians to actually believe in their own and patronise what is theirs. Medview can never compromise on safety,” he added.
Animashaun also called on the government to understand the aero politics that tend to marginalise any country that does not protect its own, remarking that all these regulations on restrictions is a way for some people to dominate the world air transport market.
“The only advice Medview will want to give to government is to sit down and have a sort of working plan to actually help the local carrier since as at today, we don’t have a national carrier but any other airline that goes out of this country is a flag carrier to Nigeria. So they should take it seriously and see whatever problem any of them has as their problem,” Animashaun said.