Arik Air has to be the worst airline to come out of Nigeria in recent times. Their incompetence is on a whole different level and it appears they are either oblivious to it or they just do not care. For a company that prides itself as Nigeria’s biggest airline and the ‘Wings of Nigeria’, they ought to do better, way better.
Tales of mismanagement have constantly trailed Arik Air as far back as 2011. The mismanagement has been accused of being unable to service their debts, of not remitting monies deducted from staff accounts for the mandatory pension fund scheme and failing to pay the Personal Income Tax deducted from staff salaries to the appropriate tax authorities, amongst others.
It was no surprise when, on Monday December 19, the chickens came home to roost. Aviation workers unions under the aegis of the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE), Air Transport Senior Staff Services Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN) and the National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers (NAAPE) announced that Arik Air workers will go on an indefinite strike the following day, Tuesday, to protest the non-payment of their salaries for 7 months and other anti-labour practices, some of which have been mentioned above. They announced that the strike would not be called off until their demands are met.
Arik Air not only has a responsibility of care to their workers but also to their passengers. However, the treatment passengers get is just as bad as what the staff get. Let us talk about the perennially delayed and cancelled flights passengers of Arik Air have to face every time they fly the airline. Arik essentially cancels or reschedules more flights than not.
In April this year, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority revealed that domestic airlines operating in the country recorded 8,478 cases of delayed flights in the first quarter of 2016. Out of these, Arik Air topped the list with a staggering 2,801 and 99 delayed and cancelled flights respectively out of 4,926 flights operated by them. This means that just 43% of their flights in the first quarter of 2016 were not delayed or cancelled. This is unacceptable.
Tales of delays and cancellations by aggrieved passengers are seen almost daily on social media. Tales of Arik delaying or cancelling flights without warning and without any form of compensation whatsoever. This is regardless of the fact that Arik is mandated by virtue of Part 19 of the NCAA Consumer Protection Regulations to compensate passengers for delayed flights by refunding up to 25% of the flight ticket cost, providing refreshments and even providing hotel accommodations if the flights are delayed overnight. However, passengers have had to sleep over at boarding lounges, pay for their refreshments and basically bear the cost of the delayed or cancelled flights by themselves.
Arik Air constantly gives the lame excuse that they delay flights because of the inability to get jet fuel. This excuse falls flat on its face on the fact that Arik is not the only airline to fly within Nigeria. No other airline gives passengers headaches more than Arik Air. There have also been reports that Arik has been unable to pay their aviation fuel suppliers which caused most of their flight cancellations. There really is a difference between the lack of availability of fuel and the inability to pay for fuel, Arik Air.
Even after Arik Air’s operation have been grounded due to the strike embarked on by its workers, it is still accepting bookings on their flights. If this is not madness, we do not know what it is. Arik Air must have been aware that their workers would go on strike as late as Monday the 19th of December, but they still sold tickets for flights that would not take off the following day and beyond. This is insensitive, misleading and plain wrong.
Arik Air is everything that is wrong with the airline industry in Nigeria. It is apparent that there needs to be an overhaul of its management and operation practices. If they can no longer deliver timely and quality services, and it has shown that it cannot for so long now, then it should shut down.