Passengers stranded as Arik halts operations

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 yesterday.

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 Cil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) rules which disallows any airline operating commercial operations to do so without adequate insurance.

According to the 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 the National Insurance Commission (NAICOM) 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, Airport or City ticket offices or visit the airline’s website 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 minimise 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 had suspended their operations over uncleared reasons.