Local flight operations of Arik Air in Abuja and Lagos were halted on Wednesday by aviation workers over a debt of N12.5bn the airline reportedly owed the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria.
Over 200 domestic passengers of Arik Air were prevented from entering the departure hall of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja by the aviation union members.
The action, which was meant to put pressure on Arik to clear the debt, forced the airline to suspend its early Wednesday’s flights.
Members of the National Union of Air Transport Employees, FAAN branch, also stopped the carrier from carrying out its operations at the General Aviation Terminal of the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos.
Some of the union members, who had waited at the departure hall of the Abuja airport as early as 6.30am, checked the tickets of all travellers and turned back those with the Arik Air tickets.
The situation, which lasted several hours, forced the carrier to suspend its flight services.
Most of the affected passengers felt dejected, as some of them were seen trying to use other flights/airlines, while others returned to their respective locations.
“This is painful. Must we suffer this much in Nigeria? Can’t unions and businesses in their sphere of operations settle amicably without putting innocent citizens through untold hardships for once in this country? This is sad,” said an affected traveller, who gave his name simply as Greg.
The airline’s spokesperson, Mr. Banji Ola, confirmed the development, stating that FAAN workers’ union blocked the operations of Arik Air at the GAT, Lagos.
He said workers of the airline were prevented from resuming at their duty posts, thereby disrupting the day’s operations.
Ola said, “The action by the workers’ union was connected with the longstanding and unsubstantiated claim by FAAN of spurious indebtedness of the airline to the agency, which is now before a federal high court in Lagos at the instance of FAAN.”
For several months, the management of Arik Air and FAAN had been meeting to reconcile payment accounts between the two institutions.
The Arik spokesman said the reconciliation process was still ongoing until the latest action by the union.
The General Secretary, NUATE, Olayinka Abioye, also confirmed the grounding of Arik Air’s operations, stressing that it was due to the N12.5bn, which the airline owed FAAN.