No Compromise of Standard in Arik Air

Adebanji Ola, public relations and communications manager, in a response to the questionnaire Realnews sent to him defends Arik Airline against allegations leveled against it, saying that the company does not owe any fuel supplier among other things. Excerpts:

Realnews: Arik is owing aviation fuel suppliers in Sierra Leone, hence the flight from Lagos to Sierra Leone on November 3, 2013, was delayed for two hours because Arik could not pay the suppliers $1500.  Before the flight left Lagos, it was also delayed for three hours because Arik could not pay for the catering services rendered by its contractors. The flight no is WS070. Comment?
Ola: Arik Air does not owe aviation fuel suppliers in Sierra Leone. The arrangement we have with our fuel suppliers in Freetown as in other West Coast stations is bank transfer. On the day in question, it took some time for the oil marketer in Freetown to confirm the money wired to his account by our bankers in Nigeria. We could not have owed fuel marketer in Freetown and still took off from Lagos on the scheduled flight. Also, at no time was the flight from Lagos delayed for three hours because we could not pay for catering services. We have a well-equipped catering unit in-house and this can compare favourably with the best catering services in West Africa. It is from there that we service all our flights. There is therefore no reason for us to owe any contractor when, in the first place, we don’t use their services.

Realnews:The flight, W3077 from Banjul to Dakar  was also delayed for five hours a fortnight ago. Why?
Ola: This is not true. You need to cross check your facts.

Realnews:Arik seems to be having financial problems despite the N20 billion lifeline it got from the federal government’s intervention fund for the aviation. Why?
Ola: For the avoidance of doubts, Arik Air is financially healthy and alive to its responsibilities as a leading player in the aviation industry in Nigeria and West Africa. There is a lot of misconception about this intervention fund. Let me first say that Arik Air got N15 billion and not N20 billion from the intervention fund. The said fund was not disbursed directly to the airline, but was used to refinance existing loan facility in the banks. So, it went back to the banks.

Realnews: Why does Arik not provide blankets for passengers on the Lagos – Dakar flight? Passengers on that route complain of freezing cold.
Ola: The Dakar-Lagos flight does not fall into the category of long haul flights where it is mandatory to provide blankets for passengers. However, we are looking at this request by our valued guests on that route and this will be taken care of as we re-launch our regional products in the New Year.

Realnews: Arik is owing NAHCO N620 million. NAHCO also got a judgement from the court asking Arik to pay. Has Arik complied with the court judgement? If not, why?
Ola: This matter is still a subject of litigation and therefore I cannot comment on it.

Realnews: Why is Arik owing such a huge amount despite the fact that it is making a lot of money and is dominating the aviation business in the country?
Ola: We don’t owe and we pay our bills regularly.

Realnews: What is your reaction to the allegation that Arik is owing FAAN N19 billion?
Ola: It is mischievous for anyone to claim that Arik Air owes Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, FAAN, N19 billion. It is not only ridiculous; it is nothing short of a figment of their imagination. For a long time, FAAN has not been able to present facts and figures to substantiate their claim of Arik Air’s indebtedness to the agency. They have continued to mention different arbitrary figures at different times. At a time when the issue became very contentious, the Senate Committee on Aviation invited FAAN and all Nigerian airlines to a meeting in Abuja. At the meeting, FAAN could not justify their claim against Arik Air and they asked for more time to put their books together. Since then, FAAN management has not gone back to the Committee with these figures. Arik Air could not owe FAAN N19 billion when most of the agency’s services are now paid in advance.

Realnews: Arik is not remitting the money it collected from ticketing to FAAN. Why?
Ola: We are not expected to remit ticket money to FAAN. If you are referring to the five percent ticket surcharge, this is remitted directly to the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA. This is not in contention. FAAN charges passenger service charge, PSC, which is paid in advance by Arik Air and other airlines.

Realnews:The interior of your aircraft is poorly maintained. Why?
Ola: Arik Air prides itself as having the youngest fleet of aircraft in Africa. The average age of our aircraft is six years and no airline in Africa has this kind of young fleet. We are the first Nigerian airline to operate a brand new aircraft in over 20 years. Sadly, the interior of a few of these aircraft that we bought brand new less than five years ago has been damaged by passengers. We have started replacing the damaged seats and we can only appeal to our guests to please complement our efforts by using the aircraft with utmost courtesy.

Realnews:Is there any other information you have that will enable us to do a balanced story?
Ola: As we celebrate our 7th anniversary as an airline, we want to renew our commitment to providing Nigerians a safe, comfortable and reliable airline of which all can be truly proud. We will continue with our tradition of deploying state of the art equipment. We are proud to say that today; we remain the only Nigerian airline operating new, modern aircraft with next generation, NG, leading-edge design and technology. Our fleet of 25 aircraft (2 Airbus A340-500, 2 Airbus A330-200, 4 Boeing 737-800NG, 9 Boeing 737-700NG, 4 Bombardier CRJ900, 2 Bombardier Q400 and 2 Hawker 800XP Executive Jets) currently enjoys an average age of six years only.

The above notwithstanding, a modern fleet is – in the final analysis – only as good as both the maintenance service provider and governing maintenance programme.  To this end, we have been resolute in our determination to marry our world-class fleet together with equally world-leading maintenance service providers such as Lufthansa Technik, Lufthansa Cityline, Iberia Engineering and Samco Engineering.  These “full service, in-country” relationships have been secured under long-term contracts thus reaffirming our commitment to your continued travelling safety.

Our safety record is as a result of our fastidious adherence to standards set by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA, and the International Civil Aviation Organisation, ICAO. Currently, Arik Air is the only Nigerian airline registered under the auspice of the “International Air Transport Association, IATA, Operational Safety Audit” (IOSA for short).  “IOSA” is the benchmark for global safety management in airlines and is the primary prerequisite for membership of IATA.  Arik Air has been (and remains) a full-fledged member of IATA since 2011.

— Dec. 16, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT