Murtala Muhammed Airport (MMA), Lagos was today thrown into chaos as air travelers holding Aero Contractors tickets were prevented from boarding by the airline after being checked-in.
Passengers waiting to fly on separate flights to Abuja and Port Harcourt were being directed to the baggage reclaim area to reclaim their luggage.
But for the quick intervention of police unit attached to the terminal, there might have been a total breakdown of law and order, as some of the angry passengers almost responded with violence.
Our correspondent who visited the terminal observed that all the Aero Contractors counters were empty, all of the staff disappearing from view to avoid being lynched.
An Aero Contractors source confirmed to SaharaReporters that the company has over 1,400 staff on its payroll. Also the oldest airline in Nigeria, the firm commenced flight operations in 1959.
Before the crisis in the company began in 2010, leading to the eventual takeover by the Asset Management Company of Nigeria (AMCON), the company had 18 fixed wings in its fleet as well as anadditional 12 rotary wings. A source close to the airline told our correspondent that the company now has just two aircraft left in its fleet: a Boeing 737 and a Dash-8 aircraft.
Earlier today, the company announced it would suspend flight operations [on Thursday), but none of its flights took off today. We later learned that the company’s entire workforce has been sent on indefinite suspension. The industry’s labour unions are also understood to be gearing up to challenge the management of the airline.
As reported earlier in the day by SaharaReporters, the airline’s Chief Executive Officer, Capt. Fola Akinkuotu, is describing the suspension of flight operations as part of a strategic business realignment to reposition the airline and return it to profitability, citing the current economic situation in the country which has forced some other airlines to pull out of Nigeria, or suspend operations.
Last February, AMCON appointed a Receiver-Manager in an effort to turn around the fortunes of the once profitable and highly-respected airline around.