Passengers billed to travel on Arik Air, Nigeria’s largest Carriers were today, Wednesday, 20 April 2016 left stranded at the Lagos domestic airport as members of aviation union paralysed flight operations of the airline over a lingering allegation of indebtedness to the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) thereby forcing the airline to cancel all domestic flights for the day.
Observers close to the airport disclosed that the union members hijacked the General Aviation Terminal (GAT) where Arik Air operates from as early as 6am blocking the Check-in and Ticketing counters of the airline thereby preventing workers of the airline from carrying out their duties.
A passenger who arrive Lagos from Port Harcourt on another airline this morning disclosed that she was informed that staffs of Arik Air were on strike.
However, a statement released by the airline’s Spokesman ;Mr Adebanji Ola said” The Federal Airports of Nigeria (FAAN) workers’ union on Wednesday morning blocked the operations of Arik Air at the General Aviation Terminal of the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Ikeja, Lagos. Workers of the airline were prevented from gaining access to their duty posts thereby disrupting the day’s operations.
The action by the workers’ union is connected with the long-standing and unsubstantiated claim by the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (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 have been meeting to reconcile payment accounts between the two institutions. The reconciliation process is still ongoing until the latest actions by the union”
While apologising to all affected passengers of the airline, Arik Air said :’’ The current situation is deeply out of control of Arik Air and the management of the airline has been compelled to suspend all domestic operations for today. This will remain in force until such a time the unfortunate situation is resolved. Arik Air sincerely apologise for the inconveniences the FAAN workers’ union action may have caused its esteemed passengers. We live to serve the needs of the people of the great nation Nigeria.
We look forward to working collaboratively with FAAN and other aviation agencies to resolve the impasse and return to our core purpose of providing essential world class services to the people of Nigeria”.
This is not the first time members of the aviation union will be disrupting Arik Air ‘flight operations.
It will be recalled that similar incident occurred on September 20, 2012.
Members of the aviation unions also disrupted Arik Air’s operations in Abuja on April 23, 2015 leaving passengers stranded.
The same scenario happened at the Lagos domestic Airport on September 21, 2015.
As reported in the Nation on April 23, 2015 Arik Air’s spokesman, Mr Ola Adebanji had described the debt by the agency as fictitious and malicious saying that the airline does not owe FAAN any money since the agency’s charges are paid in advance (pay-as-you-go basis).
“This has been the practice for over two years when all the aviation agencies introduced pay-as-you-go for their services. The bogus debt claim by FAAN is therefore unacceptable to Arik Air” Mr. Ola emphasised.
Worried over the development, the then minister of aviation, Chief Osita Chidoka had stepped into the matter by ordering a reconciliation of the lingering debts between FAAN and Arik Air.
According to the latest statement from Arik Air” the management of Arik Air and FAAN have been meeting to reconcile payment accounts between the two institutions. The reconciliation process is still ongoing until the latest actions by the union”
With the current economic situation in the country, it is expected that this disruption will impact negatively on the airline's finances as the airline will be loosing huge revenue.