The coast is clear for Nigerian airlines to fly to the United Kingdom and Europe following the Third Country Operator (TCO) certificate obtained by the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) for the affected airlines.
With the TCO, the airlines designated to the UK or some of the EU nations can apply to operate without much hassle.
Based on this, the coast is clear for Air Peace, Nigeria’s largest carrier, to operate in the UK.
It would be recalled that the Air Peace Chairman, Mr. Allen Onyema recently voiced concerns over the denial of Air Peace from flying to London.
It was learnt that through the intervention of the NCAA, all the encumbrances before the Air Peace have been cleared.
Apart from Air Peace, Omni Blu Airline also secured the TCO courtesy of the NCAA even as United Nigeria Airlines (UNA) had also been designated to fly to the UK.
Director-General, Civil Aviation, Capt. Musa Nuhu who confirmed this in a chat with our correspondent on the sidelines of the 7th Aviation African Summit and Exhibition hosted by Nigeria and attended by 1,500 participants from 75 countries, however, advised airlines to always carry the CAA along while negotiating with another country.
He said the practice has been that many privately owned airlines would be negotiating flights with another country without carrying the CAA along only to return to the authority when they run into hitches.
He said, “If the airlines are designated to fly to a particular country, they go to that country to go and negotiate without informing the NCAA. So, how can I help you when I am not aware of what you are doing?
“The few airlines that have come to us and ask for help, we were able to resolve the issue within a couple of hours, sometimes it just takes a phone call from the DG to his counterpart DG to get that done.
“We have fought with some European countries and we have got a TCO (Third Country Operator) certificate for our airlines to operate in these countries.
“If you are designated to fly into another country, normally you should come to the NCAA, we would write and introduce you to that country and we would follow up and assist you. Ibom Air came, they were having issues; it took me less than five minutes with a single phone call to resolve that issue.
“The operators must learn to use the resources available to them. If you go as a private enterprise negotiating with a government agency, you run into a problem. When you come through NCAA, we talk to them, we send our experts to go with you to negotiate with them, we would even involve the Nigerian Embassy or High Commission in that country to go and talk on behalf of that airline but when operators go on their own and they run into difficulty, they start crying wolf. They need to take the first step by involving us.”
Further explaining the TCO, Nuhu said, “For a flight between two countries, there has to be a BASA (bilateral air service agreement), which determines the terms and conditions of flights between those two countries. Then, out of that BASA, each country will designate an operator. Like Nigeria has designated some airlines including Air Peace to fly to the UK, UK also designates BA and Virgin Atlantic to fly to Nigeria. This is number one.
“Then the second step is the regulatory requirements of those countries you are flying into. If you are going to the UK, you need a TCO, UK and Europe used to be the same but now they have split. So the UK has its TCO and airlines in Europe have their TCO.
“If you are flying to Nigeria, we have what we called the Foreign Carriers’ Operating Permit (FCOP), which is the equivalent of the TCO. So, you have to meet those regulatory requirements before you are “allowed to fly into their countries.”