The current economic recession may be hitting hard on the aviation industry as no fewer than three airlines have suspended operations in less than two weeks. It was the turn of Arik Airline yesterday when the company was forced to close shop for a while.
This is coming after Aero Contractors and First Nation Airways suspended operations. Hundreds of passengers booked on Arik flights could not fly yesterday as the airline was forced to suspend operations following its inability to renew insurance policies for many aircraft with 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 may have been immersed in severe financial crisis in recent months, a development that has marred not just the renewal of aircraft insurance policies, but has even led to the continuous postponements of some aircraft due for maintenance abroad.
The exit of Arik, albeit temporary, compounds the woes of thousands of air travellers in Nigeria, who now have very limited options with Dana Air, Overland Airways, Medview, Azman and Air Peace, being the only scheduled commercial airlines flying.
Aero Contractors 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 (forex), a crisis which has engulfed the entire local airline industry, making it rather so difficult for operators to insure, maintain, and buy aircraft spares abroad to stay in operation.
Daily Sun visited the Lagos domestic airport yesterday where traffic was so 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 an employee 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 of Eid-el-Kabir but at the present time, all flights of the airline have been cancelled for Tuesday, September 13, 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.
On his part, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Dr. Michael Arumemi-Ikhide, in a statement, “assured the public, its customers, stakeholders and partners that of the airline’s committed to returning to normal operations and minimize any unfortunate inconvenience to our passengers.”
The Group CEO “apologized and appealed (on behalf of the airline) for the understanding of passengers while it works diligently to resume normal operations at the earliest.”