•More troubles loom for Nigeria’s domestic airline operators
To say domestic airline operations in the country’s aviation sector is gasping for breath in view of the ongoing acute economic hardship is surely becoming obvious as Arik Air, the largest airline in the West African region has technically grounded its operations.
The latest development has led to scores of its passengers on London, New York, West Coast routes and around Nigeria stranded from Tuesday.
Arik, according to information gathered decided to ground its operations due to the expiration of the insurance on the airplanes in its fleet.
Following the expiration of the insurance on all the aircraft in the fleet of the airline in a fell swoop, it decided to ground its operations in line with the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) and the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) rules which disallows any airline operating commercial operations to do so without adequate insurance.
According to Nigerian Civil Aviation Regulations (Nig Cars) Part 18.11.2 dealing with aviation insurance, ‘No person shall operate any aircraft in public air transport category without adequate and valid insurance cover. ‘
In a statement issued by the airline through its spokesperson, Ola Banji, Arik Air has alerted passengers of temporary disruption to its operations over what it called ‘a pending approval of aircraft documentation related to insurance renewal.’
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 Ed al Adha.
According to the statement it issued, the airline declared: “At the present time, all flights of the airline have been cancelled for Tuesday, 13 September, 2016 and the airline has stated that it would be getting in touch with passengers to provide an update on rescheduling of their flights. 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.
“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.
“Arik Air’s Group CEO, Dr. Michael Arumemi-Ikhide, wishes to advise and assure the public, its customers, stakeholders and partners that we are fully committed to returning to our normal operations and minimize any unfortunate inconvenience to our passengers. Where flights have been cancelled, the airline will notify passengers through SMS and in such cases, passengers will be accommodated on first available alternative flight as soon as normal flight operations resume.
“The Group CEO has apologised and appealed (on behalf of the airline) for the understanding of passengers while it works diligently to resume normal operations at the earliest.”
The development which has sparked debate in the sector has made many key players to wonder why the airline will allow the insurance on its fleet to expire before making attempt to get it renewed.
The latest development is creating tension across the sector barely a week after two airlines, Aero and FirstNation suspended their operations over uncleared reasons.
The suspension of flights by Arik Air, the largest airline with the largest fleet will leave flight operations in the hands of the remaining domestic carriers still struggling to survive.
The remaining airlines are: Medview, Dana, Air Peace and Overland Airways.
The remaining four airlines may find it tough to cope with the traffic in view of the huge operations Arik operate daily.
Obviously, flight operations in weeks ahead may remain a challenge as the aircraft in the fleet of the remaining airlines put together is not up to the fleet of Arik and most of the existing airlines do not operate to all the routes Arik used to fly to until it suspended its operations.
One good thing is that the absence of Arik will mean more passengers and more money for the remaining airlines which will have more than enough passengers to carry.
It will be a similar experience on the foreign routes particularly for the British carriers, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and Nigeria’s Medview which will take over the Lagos/London route.
Just like what it is on the Lagos/London route, it will be the same experience on the Lagos and American route where the absence of Arik, the only Nigerian carrier on the route will now leave the route to Delta Airlines to enjoy.
The airline operates close to 120 daily flights from its hubs in Lagos and Abuja and its the only domestic carrier that operates into over twenty states across Nigeria.
Arik Air is Nigeria and West Africa’s largest airline which operates mainly from two hubs at Murtala Mohammed Airport Lagos and Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport Abuja.
It operates a fleet of 28 state-of-the art regional, medium haul and long haul aircraft including two Airbus A330-200.
The airline presently serves 18 destinations across Nigeria as well as Accra (Ghana), Banjul (Gambia), Dakar (Senegal), Freetown (Sierra Leone), Monrovia (Liberia), Cotonou (Benin Republic), Abidjan (Cote d’Ivoire), Douala (Cameroon), Luanda (Angola), Libreville (Gabon), London Heathrow (UK), Johannesburg (South Africa) and New York JFK (USA).