—as aggrieved ex-staff issue threat to ground operations
Ex-workers of the Skyway Aviation Handling Company (SAHCO) owned by Taiwo Afolabi, the Executive Vice-Chairman of SIFAX Group have issued a one-week ultimatum to the Ground Handling operator to pay the sum of N1.8billion as their severance package or risk their operations in the 22 airports in the country grounded.
The aggrieved workers claimed the management of the ground handling company has failed to pay this sum being their severance entitlement since 11 years when the company was privertised.
SAHCO, which has since gone public, was an arm of the defunct Nigerian Airways which was sold to SIFAX Group in 2009.
But the ex-workers, who are 982 in number, said no fewer than 15 of them have died fighting for their entitlemenst while many of them are currently incapacitated.
They however gave the company and the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) one week to pay their entitlement, saying failure to do so would disrupt SAHCO’s operation in 22 airports across the country.
Chairman of the former SAHCO retirees, Ochai Adamu, who spoke with newsmen at the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos, asked the BPE to intervene in the matter immediately, adding that SAHCO has handed off payment of the benefits.
He said the entire benefit was N3.5bn but was later reduced to N1.8bn, adding that none of the workers has got any money in 11 years.
Aviation unions, comprising the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE) and the Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN) had on 31st of August wrote a letter to SAHCO that the continued refusal to pay the benefit of the affected workers “is a recipe for industrial crisis in the company.”
“We are constrained, therefore, to inform you that our unions can no longer wait helplessly and hopelessly as these victims die one after another without enjoying the benefits of their labour,” the unions said in the letter signed by the General Secretary of NUATE, Comrade Ocheme Aba, and Deputy General Secretary, ATSSSAN, Comrade Frances Akinjole.
But SAHCO in a reply to the letter insisted that the redundancy claim by the ex-workers is for the number of years they worked for the federal government and not for SAHCO, and directed that the threat should be directed to the appropriate quarters.
FAAN debunks rumours of Lagos plane crash
The Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) on Wednesday debunked viral news that a plane had crashed in the Ikeja area of Lagos State.
In a short statement posted on its verified Facebook page, the airport authority said that the plane was sold by the owner and was being transported by the new buyer.
“The Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria would like to inform the general public to disregard the news making the rounds on social media about an alleged crash at Ikeja Airport.
The aircraft was sold by the owner to a buyer, who was taking it to its final destination.”
This clarification came after a wingless plane was seen being transported on a flatbed trailer on the road at Ikeja- along bus stop axis, Lagos, causing gridlock and panic among road users.
Russia bans flights from Bulgaria, Poland, Czech Republic
In a retaliatory move, Russia said it was closing its airspace to flights from Bulgaria, Poland and the Czech Republic in tit-for-tat punitive measures following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
“Air carriers of these states and/or registered in them are subject to restrictions on flights to destinations on the territory of the Russian Federation, including transit flights through the airspace of the Russian Federation,” the federal air transport agency Rosaviation said on Saturday.
The measure is set to go into effect from 3 pm local time.
Several countries, including Bulgaria, Poland and the Czech Republic, have closed their airspace to Russian carriers.
Meanwhile, Estonia, Latvia and Slovenia on Saturday also said they would ban Russian flights.
“We invite all EU countries to do the same,” Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas tweeted, adding, “There is no place for planes of the aggressor state in democratic skies”.
Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa quoted Kallas’s tweet saying, “Slovenia will do the same”.
Latvian Transport Minister Talis Linkaits also said on Twitter that “Latvia will close its airspace to Russian-registered airlines for commercial flights,” adding that the decision would be formally approved at the next cabinet meeting.
The United Kingdom has banned Russian flagship carrier Aeroflot from flying over the UK.
Russia on Thursday had announced the closure of its airspace for civilian flights on the western border with Ukraine and Belarus, while Ukraine closed its airspace to civilian flights and Europe’s aviation regulator also warned against the hazards of flying in areas bordering Russia and Belarus.
The moves came after Russian President Vladimir Putin launched a full-scale military invasion of Ukraine days after recognising two rebel-controlled areas of the eastern Donbas region as independent entities.
Anxiety mounts among international airlines as US deploys 5G network
Major international airlines have cancelled flights heading to the United States or changed the planes they’re using Wednesday, the latest complication in a dispute over concerns that 5G mobile phone service could interfere with aircraft technology.
Some airlines said they were warned that the Boeing 777, a plane used by carriers worldwide, was particularly affected by the new high-speed wireless service.
The aircraft is the workhorse for the Dubai-based Emirates, a key carrier for East-West travel, and its flight schedule took one of the biggest hits.
It was not clear how disruptive the cancellations would be. Several airlines said they would try to merely use different planes to maintain their service.
The cancellations and changes came a day after mobile phone carriers AT&T and Verizon said they would postpone new wireless service near some US airports planned for this week.
The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has cleared a number of aircraft to fly into airports with 5G signals, but the Boeing 777 is not on the list.
Similar mobile networks have been deployed in dozens of other countries — sometimes with concessions such as reducing the power of the networks near airports, as France has done.
But in the US, the issue has pitted the FAA and the airlines against the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and telecommunications companies.
The 5G service uses a segment of the radio spectrum that is close to that used by radio altimeters, which are devices that measure the height of aircraft above the ground and help pilots land in low visibility.
The FCC, which set a buffer between the 5G band and the spectrum that planes use, determined that it could be used safely in the vicinity of air traffic.
AT&T and Verizon have said their equipment will not interfere with aircraft electronics.
But FAA officials saw a potential problem, and the telecom companies agreed to a pause while it is addressed.
On Wednesday, Emirates announced it would halt flights to several US cities due to “operational concerns associated with the planned deployment of 5G mobile network services in the U.S. at certain airports”.
It said it would continue flights to Los Angeles, New York and Washington.
“We are working closely with aircraft manufacturers and the relevant authorities to alleviate operational concerns, and we hope to resume our US services as soon as possible,” the state-owned airline said.
Of particular concern appears to be the Boeing 777. Emirates only flies that model and the Airbus A380 jumbo jet.
Japan’s All Nippon Airways said that the FAA “has indicated that radio waves from the 5G wireless service may interfere with aircraft altimeters”.
“Boeing has announced flight restrictions on all airlines operating the Boeing 777 aircraft, and we have cancelled or changed the aircraft for some flights to/from the US-based on the announcement by Boeing,” ANA said.
It cancelled 20 flights over the issue to cities such as Chicago, Los Angeles and New York.
Japan Airlines similarly said that it had been informed that 5G signals “may interfere with the radio altimeter installed on the Boeing 777”.
It said it will stop using the model in the continental US for now.
Eight of its flights were affected Wednesday — three passenger trips and five for cargo.
Taiwan’s EVA Air also said the FAA specifically said 777s may be affected, but it did not spell out how it would adjust its schedule.
But Air France said it planned to continue flying its Boeing 777s into American airports. It did not explain why it didn’t change its aircraft as many other carriers have.
Chicago-based Boeing Co did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Air India also announced on Twitter that it would cancel flights to Chicago, Newark, New York and San Francisco because of the 5G issue.
But it also said it would try to use other aircraft on US routes — a course several other airlines took.
Korean Air, Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific and Austrian Airlines said they substituted different planes for flights that were scheduled to use 777s.
Korean Air spokeswoman Jill Chung said the airline was also avoiding operating some kinds of 747s at affected airports.
Germany’s Lufthansa also swapped out one kind of 747 for another on some US-bound flights.
British Airways cancelled several planned US-bound Boeing 777 flights and changed aircraft on others.
The FAA has said it will allow planes with accurate, reliable altimeters to operate around high-power 5G.
But planes with older altimeters will not be allowed to make landings under low-visibility conditions.
Contributing to the problem, according to the FAA, are the signal strength of the 5G towers and the orientation of their antennae.
“Base stations in rural areas of the United States are permitted to emit at higher levels in comparison to other countries which may affect radio altimeter equipment accuracy and reliability,” the FAA said in December.
FCC Chairwoman, Jessica Rosenworcel said in a statement that the 5G “deployment can safely co-exist with aviation technologies in the United States, just as it does in other countries around the world.”
However, Rosenworcel urged the FAA to conduct its safety checks with “both care and speed”.
AT&T and Verizon spent tens of billions of dollars for the 5G spectrum known as C-Band in a government auction last year.
Choi Jong-Yun, a spokeswoman for Asiana Airlines, said the company hasn’t been affected so far because it uses Airbus planes for passenger flights to the US.
However, Choi raised a new wrinkle, saying airlines have also been instructed by the FAA to avoid automatic landings at affected US airports during bad weather conditions, regardless of plane type.
Asiana will redirect its planes to nearby airports during those conditions, she said.
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