DUBAI: A UAE-based airline company floated by the MMA Group, currently in the spotlight for a multi-million dirham fraud, doesn’t have a permit to operate commercial flights, the country’s highest civil aviation authority has told XPRESS.
Sultan Mohammad Al Zara, the Additional Director of Foreign Operators in the Aviation Safety Affairs Sector of the General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA), said: “MMA Airline does not have any record with the GCAA and had never been issued any approval to operate in the UAE.”
Hundreds of UAE-based investors have lost their life savings in MMA Group’s online ‘foreign exchange’ trading arm MMA Forex. The group’s CEO, Malik Noureed Awan, 27, is in police custody and his 11th floor office in Al Nahda’s Mai Tower remains shut.
Investors said the group’s diversified portfolio that included MMA Airline led them to believe they were dealing with a multinational business establishment and that their money was safe.
After XPRESS raised questions last week about the carrier, company representatives tried to restore the confidence of investors by producing a licence. They claimed it was issued by the Department of Civil Aviation in Ras Al Khaimah allowing them to operate chartered, scheduled and cargo flights. The issuance and expiry dates of the ‘licence’, a copy of which is with XPRESS, has been deliberately blackened.
Abdullah Al Hammadi, Manager of Civil Aviation Services, RAK, told XPRESS the licence expired a long time ago.
Even if it were valid, MMA Airline would have still needed a GCAA Air Operators Certificate from the UAE national aviation authority to operate an aircraft for commercial purposes. But that didn’t stop MMA from setting up a website that claimed they were starting daily flights from Ras Al Khaimah to three Pakistani cities – Lahore, Karachi and Peshawar.
When XPRESS contacted them posing as customers, an MMA staff said: “Our boss is not here, Inshallah we will start when he comes back. Our planes are parked at the hangar of RAK airport.”
Al Hammadi, however, put things in perspective: “No company called MMA Airline has operated any flights out of RAK ever. And we have no MMA Airline planes in our hangar.”
A visit to the MMA Airline website though will make one believe they are a full-fledged international carrier. Not only is there a daily operational schedule but also a platform that appears to accept online bookings. What’s more, they even offer regular customers ‘benefits and privileges of Skywards membership’ under their MMA Sky Perks Program.
MMA Airline also claims to ‘provide best halal food including Asian, Chinese and Thai cuisines. Frills include video games for game lovers, wi-fi for smartphones addicts and noise-cancelling headphones for ‘true music nerds.’
Authorities in Pakistan are also not impressed with all the jazz. Last year the Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority issued a public notice saying they had not issued any licence to the airline.
Curiously, pictures of their Boeing 777 fleet on the website bear an uncanny similarity to United Airlines planes. Even the managing director’s message appears to be copy-pasted from the website of Biman Bangladesh.