(By Louis Mbah – LAGOS)
Hundreds of passengers booked on Arik Air flights could not fly yesterday as the airline was forced to suspend it’s operations following the inability of the airline to renew insurance policies for most aircraft with its underwriters.
The insurance and reinsurance of an aircraft on commercial, charter or cargo operations is a statutory requirement for all operators under the Nigerian Civil Aviation Law.
Daily Sun learnt that the airline has been immersed in severe financial crisis in recent months, a development that has marred not just the renewal of aircraft insurance policies, but las even led to the continuous postponements of some aircraft due for maintenances abroad.
The exit of Arik, albeit temporary, compounds the woes of thousands of air travelers in Nigeria who now have very limited options with Dana Air, Overland Airways, Azman and Air Peace being the only scheduled commercial airlines flying.
Aero Contractors Airline and First Nation Airways had grounded their operations about a fortnight ago.
The three airlines (Arik, Aero, and First Nation) appear to have been overwhelmed, or even swallowed up, with the scarcity and paucity of foreign exchange, a crisis that has engulfed the entire local airline industry, making it difficult for operators to insure, maintain, and buy aircraft spares abroad to stay in operation.
Daily Sun visited the Lagos domestic airport on Monday where traffic was low, with some passengers expressing their disappointment on the sorry state of the local airline industry.
One passenger, Innocent Siffon, told Daily Sun that Arik Air had over the years remained his preferred airline, but when he learnt from a staff in the airline late yesterday that the airline might no longer fly, he opted to fly Dana Air on the Lagos – Abuja route.
Spokesman for Arik Air Mr. Banji Ola told journalists that passengers had been “alerted on the temporary disruption to its operations, pending approval of aircraft documentation related to insurance renewal.”
“The airline is working around the clock to resolve the necessary documentation, which has been a challenge due to the long weekend holidays. At the present time, all flights of the airline have been cancelled for Tuesday, 13 September 2016, and 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,” Ola added.
Arik Air’s Group CEO Dr. Michael Arumemi-Ikhide, said in a statement that the airline was “committed to returning to normal operations and minimize any unfortunate inconvenience to our passengers.”