Fear Grips Dana Air Workforce as Airline Disengages 500 Workers

Chinedu Eze

There is palpable fear among the workforce of Nigeria’s mid-sized airline, Dana Air, over the future and survival of the airline following its disengagement of its workers estimated at 500 after many years of struggle to keep its aircraft in the sky.
The disengagement of the workers followed the recent suspension of the airline by the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA).

The NCAA had suspended the airline following a directive by the Minister of Aviation and Aerospace Development, Festus Keyamo, to the Director General of the NCAA, Capt. Chris Najomo, directing that the airline be suspended over the runway excursion it suffered on Tuesday, April 23, 2024.
Confirming the disengagement in a statement issued yesterday, Dana Air stated that for it to return to service, it was undergoing an operation audit with the regulatory authority, NCAA.

The airline said in the statement signed by the Head, of Corporate Communication, Kingsley Ezenwa, that: “The audit, currently underway, is a collaborative effort between Dana Air and the authorities to ensure compliance with all necessary standards and regulations.”
The airline which did not disclose the number of the disengaged workers, however, reaffirmed its commitment to full cooperation with the authorities to facilitate a smooth and expedited resolution of the audit process.

“In light of the ongoing audit, Dana Air has made the decision to temporarily disengage some staff members pending the conclusion of the audit. This decision has been made to ensure efficient management of resources and to facilitate a thorough review of operational procedures,” the statement added.
The airline’s management commended the resilience and dedication of the disengaged workers during the period of uncertainty, adding that it recognised the difficulties that the members of staff had to endure.
It gave an assurance that every effort was being made to resolve the situation promptly.
“Dana Air remains committed to providing updates and support to its staff throughout this process and while these challenges are being addressed, Dana Air has commenced talks with lessors and are currently engaging stakeholders on the progress made so far,” the statement explained.
Dana Air also noted that it was working diligently to address any concerns and prepare a restart plan that would ensure the safe and efficient resumption of operations.

It also expressed confidence that with the continued support of its staff and stakeholders, it would overcome these challenges and emerge stronger.
THISDAY gathered that the NCAA is inclined to the airline changing its McDonnell Douglas (MD-83) aircraft by adding two more aircraft, possibly a Boeing 737 as a condition for its resumption of operation.
It was also gathered that while the MD-83 may not have any safety challenges, both the airline and NCAA acknowledged that being old equipment, it costs more to keep them airworthy as it will record AOG (Aircraft on Ground) and will also require regular maintenance.
The investigation further revealed that the company is shopping to acquire more aircraft.
However, with the long time required in aircraft acquisition by purchase or lease, industry insiders also fear that the airline might not be resuming operation soon.

Commenting on the development, the Secretary General of the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE), Ocheme Aba, told THISDAY that if the airline does not have work again for the workers, it should declare redundancy and then negotiate with labour on the staff benefits.
“If the airline is not unionised it will negotiate with the Ministry of Labour and Productivity,” he added.
On his part, the Chairman of the National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers (NAAPE), Dana Air chapter, Peter Dunia, told THISDAY that the workers are demanding their entitlements and want to negotiate directly with the Chief Executive Officer of Dana Air, Mr. Jackie Hathiramani, hinting that the major challenge of the airline is financial distress.
THISDAY learnt that the airline has about 600 workers and has retained about 100, mostly technical, administrative, and managerial staff who would be working with the NCAA on the audit and resolving financial matters.
Other industry insiders also told THISDAY that the major deterrent in the airline industry is low-profit margin, which discourages operators from committing more funds to the industry.

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