BreakingNews 14/9/16 - Passengers stranded as Arik suspends operations in Nigeria

[ Masterweb Reports: Nurudeen Oyewole & Chris Agabi report ] - Hundreds of domestic and international passengers were stranded as Arik Air suspended operations at short notice yesterday. The suspension of operations is attributed to the airline’s inability to renew insurance cover.

 

Arik, which is the largest West Africa airline operator, accounts for 60 percent of domestic operations in Nigeria.

 

The suspension left about 1, 500 passengers stranded at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja alone, a source said.
 

The source added that over 2,000 passengers were equally stranded in Lagos and five other destinations in Nigeria.
 

Frustrated passengers complained bitterly that the cancellations had cost them their businesses and other engagements in London, Ghana among other destinations.
 

There were angry scenes at Arik booking offices, especially in Abuja and Lagos where passengers hurled harsh words at ticketing and security staff. 
 

For several hours, many of the passengers both at the international and local wings of Murtala ‎Muhammed Airport, Ikeja, Lagos, were confused even as they expressed their frustrations with management of Arik Air whom they accused of keeping them in the dark. 
 

“Why will they keep us in the dark? Where do I go from here? All my plans to arrive in London tomorrow have been shattered. Repaying my flight fare is not just what I want but even if they do that, will that fix all my business appointments they have shattered?” Biola Adebanjo, who later identified himself as a 35-year-old fashionista said.
 

“These people are quite heartless and wicked. I booked my return ticket to London last week and while doing that, the portal was still functioning and it did not reject my booking. I’m surprised that I can now come here and be told that all flights have been cancelled because of it is unable to renew its aircraft insurance,” another passenger said.
 

“Since they knew about the impending problem, why did they keep accepting bookings? Why did they bring us to see this state where there is no previous information or alert? Why? Why?” Joke Rochas, a mother of two who said she had a flight booking to London said.
 

The airline said that it was “working around the clock to resolve the necessary documentation, which has been a challenge due to the long weekend holidays due to Eid al Adha,” a part of the statement read.
 

“At the present time, all flights of the airline have been cancelled for Tuesday, 13 September 2016,” a statement by the airline said.
 

This situation is likely to continue for the next few days until such time that NAICOM (National Insurance Commission) approves a waiver on a priority basis for the new insurance company to renew the policy, it added.
 

“All customers are kindly advised to contact Arik Air’s Call Centre (01-2799999), Airport or City ticket offices or visit the airline’s Website (www.arikair.com) for further updates. Passengers are also advised to check with the airline regarding the status of their flights before proceeding to the airport.”
 

The statement also conveyed the airline’s Arik Group CEO, Dr. Michael Arumemi-Ikhide’s wishes, advice and assurances to passengers and members of the public. ‎
‎ Arik Air is the third airline operator in less than three weeks to have suspended operations in recent times. Nigeria second biggest carrier, Aero Contractor was the first to grind its operation followed by First Nation airline which allegedly claimed to be undergoing maintenance of its A39 fleet.
 

At the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport Abuja yesterday, a senior staff with the Federal Airports Authority said the airline processed about 20 to 23 flights in and around Abuja daily.
 

One of Arik Air’s staff who spoke under condition of anonymity said the airline processed some 1,500 passengers daily out of Abuja alone. That suggests some 1,500 passengers were affected by the flights cancellation in Abuja alone.
 

Thus at an average ticket cost of N30,000 per seat, the airline may have lost some N45 million in revenue from Abuja outbound passenger yesterday.
 

An angry passenger, Mrs. Lawal stormed the Arik Air Abuja Station manager’s office in Abuja demanding for explanation.
 

“I bought a ticket with my daughter to Ghana for 6:30pm today (yesterday) I got to the airport and I’m told the flight has been cancelled till tomorrow evening (today). Is that the way you people operate?” She demanded.
 

“If you cannot operate normal schedule, shut down like Aero has done and let us know you are not flying. You have my email and my phone number and no one contacted me?” She asked the Arik Air Station manager, Mr. Wamildu Jilantikiri, who apologized and assured her Arik Air will resume normal flight operations Wednesday.
“How am I sure you will fly tomorrow? If the registration closes, what do I do? If only I got a notification, I would have looked for alternative.
 

When our correspondent contacted the General Manager, Public Affairs, NCAA, Mr. Sam Adurogboye as to whether NCAA will activate punitive measures on Arik over customer rights issues, he said “arising challenges will be sorted out” without specifics on how that would happen.
 

However, a top management of Arik Air staff who didn’t want his name mentioned said the passengers may be compensated based on Arik Air policy and NCAA Act. 
 
*Photo Caption - Arik plane.

 
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