The new management of Arik Airline will this
week scale down flight operations to realign
with the number of serviceable aircraft
currently at its disposal.
The new schedule, The Guardian learnt, will
mean smaller number of flights per day,
compared to about 100 to 120 the airline ran
some months ago.

With limited frequencies on some high-traffic
domestic routes, and temporary suspension of
others including the internationals, passengers
may be faced with limited options. There may
also be further reduction in the revenue
accruing to the airline, regulators and
government agencies.

The Assets Management Corporation of Nigeria
(AMCON), owned by the Federal Government,
last week took over the managerial control of
Arik Air to save the carrier from collapse due
to a heavy financial debt burden.

Arik, the largest carrier in West and Central
Africa, was accused of bad corporate
governance, erratic operational challenges,
inability to pay staff salaries and a heavy debt
burden, among others.

Upon AMCON’s takeover, it was discovered
that the airline’s 28 aircraft fleet size is left
with 10 functional planes, with 10 in overseas
and eight grounded at the Lagos airport.
The Federal Government on Friday said plans
were on to return the 10 aircraft stuck
overseas over unpaid maintenance cost to
boost the capacity of the airline.

Sources at AMCON confirmed that a temporary
scale-down of operations had been agreed
pending the arrival of more aircraft. The
measure is to ensure efficient services and put
an end to the era of flight cancellations.

A source, who would not want to be
mentioned, said: “The management is planning
to stabilise its operations by scaling down flight
operations based on the number of serviceable
aircraft at its disposal, until more aircraft
return from C-check and maintenance yards
abroad. Therefore, a new schedule will be
announced in the next few days to
accommodate its existing fleet of 10 aircraft.”
While the airline’s Lagos-New York services
had been suspended, the Lagos-London and
Lagos-Johannesburg flights ran at the
weekend.

Head of the Corporate Communications
Department of AMCON, Jude Nwauzor, stated
that the “mess” met on ground was actually
bigger than anticipated, and that it would
require over N10 billion to fix the rot before
the airline could resume full and uninterrupted
operations to its regular routes across the
country and beyond.

“It appears that unlike previously recorded,
Arik has debts in excess of N300 billion,
especially with some banks, excluding fuel
suppliers, lessors and maintenance companies.
“Due to government’s intervention, operations
are continuing and the insurance cover for the
aircraft which would have expired on Sunday,
12 February has now been sorted out. Trade
creditors and fuel marketers have been
assured that all indebtedness will be looked
into; they have offered to support the new
management to get operations run smoothly.
Meanwhile, airline operators have blamed the
misery of Arik Air and Aero Contractors on the
burden of multiple charges and taxation forced
on the local airlines.

Chairman, Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON),
Capt. Nogie Meggison, alleged that despite the
challenges of economic recession and
unfriendly business environment, the system
continued to “manipulate, feasting on and
pushing the financial envelope of airlines by
inflicting multiple taxes, charges and levies to
the extent that airlines are now groaning under
the pressure and some are going bankrupt.”
Meggison added that the airlines had been
complaining about the same issue over the
years that had culminated in sending of over 27
of them under in the past 25 years.
“A case in point is the recent takeover of Arik
Air and Aero Contractors by AMCON in the face
of huge financial burdens that have shown
themselves as fallout of the multiple and
sometimes unfair charges, levies and taxes that
airlines are forced to grapple with on a daily
basis.

“This is without recourse to the fact that aside
from all the multiple charges, levies and fees,
airlines still have to pay mandatory statutory
corporate taxes to relevant agencies.”
He said if the difficult environment continues,
none of the airlines would survive for long.


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