There was palpable frustration on the faces of air travellers on Aero flight after the airline announced earlier today that it had shut down its operations indefinitely.
News Gazette that was at the Murtala Muhammed Airport Terminal 2 when news of the closure was made public observed that some passengers who were at the airport for their flights to Port Harcourt and Abuja reported for boarding but were told that the flights had been cancelled indefinitely.
However, some who arrived earlier and checked in their luggage for both flights were seen moving towards the arrival hall to proceed to the baggage reclaim area for their luggage.
The passengers’ woes heightened when they went to the airline’s sales counters to ask for refund but found out that the counters had been deserted.
In an interview with News Gazette, the passengers said they never knew that the airline had ceased to operate.
“The airline should have had the courtesy of informing its customers of the development at least one hour before departure time so that people could make alternative arrangement,” said an Abuja-bound passenger who identified himself as Greg Ogunyemi.
Ogunyemi who said he bought the ticket around 9am added that his plan had been shattered as no other domestic airline would accept Aero’s ticket.
Another passenger, Ebiegberi Akpodigha who was Port Harcourt-bound regretted that he had constantly been a victim of the airline’s cancelled flights.
“This is not the first time I have had this kind of experience with the airline but I don’t know why I keep flying it. It is even worse now that they said they had suspended operations indefinitely. To get a refund is the problem now,” he said.
As there was no one to attend to them, they were directed to the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) office to lodge complaints but there was no solution in sight to their dilemma for the staff they met could do very little for them.
As of the time of handing in this report, there was no information as to how the management was going to assuage the feelings of the distraught passengers
Meanwhile, the National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers (NAAPE), Air Transport Senior Staff Services Association (ATSSSAN) and National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE) have scheduled a meeting with the airline’s management tomorrow to discuss labour-related matters as they affect their members.
In a telephone interview, the acting general secretary of NUATE, Mr. Olayinka Abioye described the airline’s indefinite suspension of operations as a “sad commentary for the airline industry.”
He expressed concern about the carrier’s indebtedness to its workers saying it was the more reason the unions would be meeting with the airline.
“The management of Aero is owing its workers two months salaries and gratuity of 1-2 years. We were just told that management invited the branch unions and told them that they will be shutting down and all non-essentials for now would have to go home.
“We feel sorry for Aero but we have to make sure our people do not suffer. There are over 400 workers that have been declared redundant and management does not have a dime to pay how much less the generality of workers that they are asking to go home.
“During the peak of this crisis, we advised the management to shed some weight especially from services they solicit from outside (contractors) but even that was not enough.
“An airline that used to have 14 aircraft now only has one and that one is unreliable. It is a disaster if Aero goes under but the truth is when you have to take this kind of decision, it means it has reached breaking point. Nobody can force them to undo this decision,” said Abioye.