Nature Air is waiting for approvals from the General Directorate of Civil Aviation (DGAC) to resume operations as soon as possible.
The airline was grounded last Friday, January 12, due to the resignation of its director of operations, Jorge Valverde, and the loss of the chief of pilot training (who died in the Dec. 31 crash in Guanacaste) and the medical leave of the chief of security, having lost the minimum structure required by law.
“Jorge Valverde, who was the head of operations, and had been with us for 10 years, failed to fill the two necessary positions and hire other pilots. I do not blame him personally nor does the company, I think he faced a lot of pressure and could not lead,” said Alex Khajavi, CEO & founder of the airline.
The businessman explained on Monday (January 15) to ElFinancierocr.com (EF) that the appointments made are under review by the authorities and that once authorized to operate, the company will face a temporary reorganization to recover its normal operation.
The Civil Aviation press department commented via email (minutes after the publication of the EF article on Tuesday) that the confirmation could take several more days.
“The DGAC will take this week to verify the reports of the persons proposed by the company, including the prior suitability examination that must be presented to the DGAC,” said the statement.
Khajavi told EF that Valverde did not resign his position conventionally, in that he sent his resignation first to the DGAC, that is the authorities learned of his leaving before the company, thus leaving the airline without the minimum legal structure to operate.
“Our director of operations had taken six or seven days to do what we did in 12 hours, which was to assign those positions, his inability to do this was due to the pressure he was facing,” said Khajavi.
The businessman said that three things must happen to get the airline back in the air. One, the DGAC approve the appointments. Two, see how many flights they can operate under the ‘wet lease’, that is, the flights are operated by another company with its pilots and planes, in which Nature Air fills it with passengers. And, three, the time it takes to get two planes the company is trying to bring into the country certified.
Asked about the company’s announcement last November to invest US$10 million dollars to add five planes to its fleet, the businessman explained that three planes they already have are part of the investment, leaving the arrival of two more.
Asked when the two planes will arrive, Khajavi explained that it depends on the DGAC and its certification and then the paperwork, that could take up to six weeks.
“For example, the DGAC works hard to comply with safety regulations. The DGAC inspector traveled to Las Vegas and inspected it for four days when he brought the last plane from Nevada-precisely the one that crashed. Six weeks then took,” said Khajavi.
According to Khajavi, the airline currently has only two planes and wet leasing has been part of its business model for many years.
“We have done this for 20 years. These agreements are in line with the global industry, we are not inventing them or making new rules. We operate just like other leases, maybe with some adjustments. Most of these agreements are practically equal to each other,” said Khajavi.
Asked about the rumors of the poor financial affairs of the company and possibly the DGAC delaying approving the new planes because of this, Khajavi was frank that the company is not as financially healthy as he would like, but the company has been around for 20 years and is not new.
In January 2018, the Nature Air fleet consisted of two Cessna 208B Grand Caravans. Nature Air’s four Let L-410 Turbolets were grounded in July 2017 by Civil Aviation due irregularity in registration, possibly an embargo (seizure of goods) due to non-payment of their lease.
Asked if the Nature Air brand been affected by this situation, Khajavi responded, “Absolutely not. And I can give you examples of this: we still have reservations, people in the social networks give us their messages of support. This is a solid brand, people understand and know that flying is much safer than driving on the streets of Costa Rica.”
When the airline gets back in the air, the businessman said it will be with fewer flights. “We are going to reduce our flights at this time to be able to operate, and as soon as we have the conditions we will announce our flights and destinations that will be operational.”