The Chief Executive Officer of Arik Air, Capt. Roy Ilegbodu, has called for priority to be given to aviation workers as the Federal Government commences COVID-19 vaccination, saying this will help keep the economy running and enable more people to travel knowing they are safe.
He said this when he hosted the Publisher of Atqnews and Travelers magazine, Ikechi Uko, at his Lagos office who went to deliver an invitation for the annual Abuja Jabamah travel event.
“We think aviation workers should get priority for vaccination. In Arik, we are trying to see if we can get all our staff vaccinated as soon as possible, this allows us to serve the public confidently. We are frontline workers as we deal with the public every day,” Ilegbodu said.
According to the citation read by Uko to justify the choice of Arik as the airline of choice, he said: “Arik Air started operations in 2006 and was once the biggest airline in West Africa with 30 aircraft in its fleet flying to London, UK, New York, USA, Johannesburg, South Africa, Dakar, Senegal, Banjul, Gambia, Accra, Ghana and Dubai, UAE along with numerous domestic operations. Today it flies mainly within Nigeria.
“From the fleet it inherited, many aircraft are grounded but effectively using six aircraft. Since AMCON took over the airline in 2017, many of the leased aircraft have been returned to the owners or has been repossessed through Court orders. Four planes were returned to France. Two classic airplanes abandoned in Europe were seized by a European supplier. Out of the two A340 planes, one is parked at the airport in Lagos while the other is in storage in France. Three aircraft were recovered by the Canadian Export Development Bank. A B737-800 went for C-check in Lithuania and there is now an attempt by Lufthansa to seize it. Another B737-800 is abandoned in South Africa. So many creditors are trying to seize as many of the assets as they could lay their hands on.
“In spite of all these troubles, Arik is still the biggest airline brand out of Nigeria. Even with the shrunk fleet, it is still one of the biggest airlines in West Africa. It has three Q400 aircraft, two CRJ-900, one B737-700 and another B737-700 is expected back from checks soon.
“Before AMCON took over Arik, it was indebted to a lot of firms. They are all trying to seize one asset or another. So far, the managers have managed the situation well. Arik is in receivership and inherited 2500 staff but now has 1600 on its payroll. 900 of those workers are at home because of the COVID-19 lockdown fallout. Some are getting called back as soon as more activities are added. They are paid some allowances while at home and the airline has so far proved resilient. It has also demystified the myth that no Nigerian airline with 10 aircraft last beyond 10 Years.”
In his response Roy thanked the organisers for the honour and promised that Arik Air will attend the awards in Abuja. He commended the organisers for their consistency in promoting Travel and Tourism in Nigeria.