…Airline laments inability to operate Abuja-London route
By Sade Williams
Arik Air, West and Central Africa’ s largest carrier, said on Monday it carried over 19 million passengers between October 30, 2006, when it started operations and October, 30, 2016, when it clocked 10 years of providing safe and secure air travel to the Nigerian public.
Speaking at a press conference on the 10th year anniversary in Lagos, Chris Ndulue, Executive vice President of the airline, also disclosed that by 2025, the airline would have increased its fleet from the current 28 to 52 as part of its growth strategy.
He noted that for 10 years now, Arik Air has delivered on its promise of operating the youngest fleet in West Africa with an average hull of 7.8 years, creating employment opportunities and partnering with top maintenance providers such as Lufthansa technik, Lufthansa city line and Samco Engineering under full maintenance service contracts to date.
“We are celebrating safety and security that we have been known for, we’ve moved from a start-up to being a leader in West Africa and Central Africa, we thank Nigerians for giving us the support and making us what we have become today.
“Arik Air is now the market leader in the region in terms of number of aircraft, capacity deployed, network and number of flights having transported over 19 million passengers. Arik now operates an average of 110 daily flights across a network of 18 domestic, 10 regional and 3 international destinations including South Africa, UK and USA”, he said.
He said the airline adherence to high operational standards is evident in its achieving the stringent IOSA , the IATA operational safety audit, for four consecutive times with the last two cleared successfully with no findings. This achievement, he said has also earned Arik Air the Enhanced IATA operational safety audit, making it the only airline in the region to have such certification.
Given Arik Air’s dominant position in the aviation market today, along with current and future planned, Ndukue said the airline has the capabilities to take full advantage of the expected passenger traffic growth forecast for the region.
“In the coming years, we hope to maintain our market leadership and our growth strategy involves substantially increasing in fleet from 28 aircraft to 52 by 2025. On route development, we are looking at starting new routes and we will update our customers with details in the new year. We thank Nigerian travellers for the support and patronage that has enabled Arik Air to successfully completes a decade in aviation”, he added.
Meanwhile, Johnson Arumemi-Ikhide, chairman of the airline has lamented the inability of the airline to operate services between Abuja and London.
He called on the Minister of State, Aviation , Hadi Sirika, to look into this by assisting the airline, saying that the route should not be an exclusive reserve to some airlines.
The airline chief, who also raised an alarm over an impending insurance crisis in the sector, said international insurance companies are now declining request of airlines due to default on payment by local insurance partners.
“I am not talking of current fleet, I am talking about future aircraft, we might have problem, insurance crisis might erupt because insurance companies abroad have said they don’t want to deal with any insurance company in Nigeria.
“Also, the past few governments have not supported us, we should be able to go London from Abuja, it was possible for us to operate to London from Lagos under former President Olusegun Obasanjo, we need government assistance in this area. The current government should also work on infrastructure at the airports. Concession is not the issue but having state-of-the-art facilities, night landing is still a problem in some airports”, he said.
He also lamented that Arik Air currently has money that is stuck in Angola, adding that it cannot also retrieve it just like foreign airlines had such in Nigeria but nobody was ready to help it.
Earlier, Ndulue, who said the forex issues had impacted on the cost of airlines’ operations in the country, said there is need for continuous support for them to be able to be above board.
He however thanked government for re-introducing the custom duties waiver on spare parts, adding that it has impacted some savings for the airline.
Arik Air is expected to roll out incentives to reward its customers in the next 10 months.