Monday, 13 July 2020

UK Denies Air Peace Landing Right To Evacuate Stranded Citizens In London

 In what stakeholders see as another brewing aeropolitics, the British Government has denied Nigeria’s carrier, Air Peace landing permit to evacuate Nigerians stranded in the United Kingdom. However, the federal government has commended the airline for facilitating the evacuation of the 584 Nigerians by engaging another airline after the British government denied it the landing right.

Nigerians had already paid Air Peace after the airline was designated by the Federal Government to evacuate citizens in the UK.

But it was learnt that Air Peace had to defray the extra cost for engaging a foreign carrier to ensure that Nigerians were brought back to the country without further delay. Ironically, Air Peace had evacuated over 300 Nigerians in two weeks ago from United Kingdom. But curiously, the British Government refused to grant further evacuation landing permit. It was learnt that the airline was directed to wet-lease aircraft from UK or Europe to airlift the stranded Nigerians.

By wet lease, the airline would lease an aircraft from a UK company which would be operated by the crew of the company. That kind of lease arrangement is always at a prohibitive cost which the airline might defray at a loss.

But that kind of arrangement is said to be impracticable when the airline has no fewer than three B777 aircraft in its fleet, two of which were deployed to Asian countries in the last 72 hours to evacuate Nigerians from Malaysia, Thailand, India, among others. In a statement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with reference number No: MFA/PR/2020/16 and dated July 12, 2020, which was pasted on the Ministry’s Twitter handle, the government commended the airline for the sacrifice it has made to ensure that Nigerians returned to their fatherland.

The statement titled, “Public Announcement on Change of Departure Date and Airport of Air Peace Evacuation Flights from the United Kingdom,” read: “Further to the notification issued by our High Commission in London on the pending evacuation of stranded Nigerians in the United Kingdom, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs wishes to make additional clarifications that led to the changes in the departure date and airport of the Air Peace evacuation flights. The flight was earlier scheduled to depart on 13th July 2020 from London Heathrow but was later rescheduled to 14th July 2020 from Gatwick Airport London.

The changes became necessary following the unexpected decline by the British Government to grant Diplomatic Landing Clearance to Air Peace airlines. “Consequently, the Federal Government appealed to Air Peace to engage the services of an alternative Airline to airlift our stranded citizens instead of refunding their payments, hence the use of Air Partner, one of the Global Air Charter companies advised by the British authorities.

“It is pertinent to note that, Air Peace gracefully contracted Air Partner to operate these chartered flights on its behalf at a much higher cost than the tickets fares paid by the prospective evacuees. “In the light of the foregoing, the Federal Government wishes to extend its appreciation to the Chairman and Management of Air Peace Limited for their commitments and patriotism in ensuring that our stranded nationals in the United Kingdom return home safely.

The Federal Government, however, regrets any inconvenience these changes might have caused,” the statement signed by the spokesman of the Ministry, Ferdinand Nwonye said. Our correspondent reports that the “unexpected decline” by the British Government to grant landing permit to Air Peace was also communicated to the passenger by the Nigerian High Commission in London in a correspondence on Saturday.

The evacuation, which was moved from July 13 to 14 July 2020 is expected to involve two flights; one flight will bring some of the evacuees to Lagos, while the other flight would take the rest to Abuja the same day. Stakeholders said there is more than meets the eyes to the new stand of the British Government after it earlier granted the airline permit to evacuate over 300 citizens two weeks ago.

Mr Olumide Ohuanyo, a member of Aviation Roundtable noted that “it would be too early to take a position on the denied landing of Air Peace” if the same authority had given you permit to the airline in the past. “There must be a reason that both parties would accept it and let us move on.” It would be recalled that the airline on July 10, 2020, dispatched two B777 aircraft, with registration number 5N-BWI and 5N-BVE, to Malaysia and India, airlifting citizens of both countries and Singaporeans from Nigeria and returned to the country with over 300 Nigerians from different countries in Asia.

Among the evacuees airlifted from Nigeria included about 250 Indians in one of the many evacuation flights carried out by the carrier to the world’s second most populated country. Air Peace said both flights returned safely to Abuja and Lagos Saturday night, evacuating over 300 stranded Nigerians from Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia in one flight, while the second flight brought in some stranded Nigerians in India and over 200 Indians working in Nigeria.

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