Dozens of Arik Airline passengers were stranded on Friday following Thursday’s suspension of the domestic operations of the airline.
The Counters of Nigeria’s biggest airline was deserted at the Nnamdi Azikiwe international airport following the suspension of domestic flights by the management of the airline.
Although some of the passengers expressed disappointment over their inability to travel, others complained about the absence of officials of the airline to pay refunds for their unused tickets.
“I’m a little disappointed because I came to get my 11 o’clock flight to Lagos to get my international connection and I was told that there is no flight. In terms of customer service, I feel disappointed. Perhaps they should have tried to reach out to the customers and provide alternative for them,” one of the stranded passenger said.
Some of the passengers expressed disappointment with the sudden suspension of the airline’s operations saying this has brought untold hardship to them. Other passengers were angry over the procedure to get a refund of their fares.
“It’s a very terrible experience. We here since yesterday and were supposed to go for a friend’s father’s burial which is supposed to hold today and until now we’ve not been able to get a ticket yet we’ve paid our fare to and from Uyo. They are not even telling us anything,” another stranded passenger told Channels Television’s correspondence.
“I got a text message yesterday saying that arik flights have been grounded. If my information is correct, they said it has to do with a debt. Maybe they are owing the airport authority or something. I’m not very sure, that’s why I am here,” a passenger at the airport said.
The Managing Director and Executive Vice Chairman of arik air, Chris Ndulue however appealed to the government and aviation authorities to intervene in the dispute between the airline and the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN).
“We very much sympathise with the passengers and we very much regret all the inconveniences they’ve passed through. The press conference we had today is to call on the Federal Government to intervene.
“We’ve also shown you the letters we’ve written both to FAAN and to the presidency calling for intervention; calling for someone to mediate between FAAN, the Ministry (Ministry of Aviation) and Arik,” Mr Ndulue said.
The domestic operations of arik airlines were disrupted on Thursday by aviation unions over alleged N17 billion debt owed FAAN and some other agencies which prompted the management of the airline to suspend all its domestic operations.
The few airlines that were operating on the domestic routes on Friday claimed that they were fully booked as some passengers struggled to get tickets.
Only three airlines — IRS, Aero and Overland – were operating as at the time of publishing this report.
The Chairman Senate Committee on Aviation, Hope Uzodinma has assured that the crises rocking the airline would be resolved by Sunday.
Briefing journalists in Abuja, Mr Uzodinma said the presidency has intervened in the crises to this end the secretary to the government of the federation has summoned officials of Arik Airlines, the Ministry of Aviation and FAAN for a meeting on Saturday.
The crisis involving Arik Airlines is coming on the heels of a recommendation by the senate that Arik Airlines be made the national flag carrier of the country.
Mr Uzodinma blamed the problem in the aviation industry on the lack of proper development.