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Hundreds of passengers of Nigeria’s
biggest airline, Arik Air, were left stranded at airports across the country
and beyond on Tuesday because of suspension of flight operations by the
carrier.

Arik is having problems with the
renewal of its insurance policy.

At the Murtala Mohammed
International Airport, Lagos, and the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport,
Abuja, it was observed that all the ticketing and reservation stands of the
airline were closed and customers were directed to other carriers.

Airport officials told one of our
correspondents that the carrier had been having issues for some time and that
these were affecting its smooth operations.

The airline said in a PRESS statement
that the development was caused by documentation issues relating to the renewal
of its insurance policy.

It said the delay in renewing the
insurance policy was caused by the two-day holiday, which was declared by the
Federal Government to celebrate the Eid-el-Kabir.

Arik said the suspension of flights
might continue for the next few days until the approval of a waiver on a
priority basis by the National Insurance Commission for a new insurance company
to renew the policy.

It added that during the period of
the disruption of operations, the management of the airline would be working
hard to resolve the necessary documentation issues.

The statement read in part, “Arik
Air, West and Central Africa’s largest airline, has alerted all air travellers
of a temporary disruption to its operations pending approval of aircraft documentation
related to insurance renewal. The airline said that it was working around the
clock to resolve the necessary documentation, which has been a challenge due to
the long weekend holidays.

“At the present time, all flights
of the airline have been cancelled for Tuesday, 13 of September, 2016, and the
airline has stated that it would be getting in touch with passengers to provide
an update on rescheduling of their flights.

“This situation is likely to
continue for the next few days until such time that NAICOM approves a waiver on
a priority basis for the new insurance company to renew the policy.”

The airline however advised its
customers to visit either its website or any of its ticket offices to know the
status of their flights before proceeding to airports.

Arik Air’s Group Chief Executive
Officer, Dr. Michael Arumemi-Ikhide, said, “The airline wishes to advise and
assure the public, its customers, stakeholders and partners that we are fully
committed to returning to our normal operations and minimize any unfortunate
inconvenience to our passengers.

“Where flights have been cancelled,
the airline will notify passengers through SMS and in such cases, passengers
will be accommodated on first available alternative flights as soon as normal
flight operations resume.

“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 time.”

The Nigerian Civil Aviation
Regulations kick against any airline operating an aircraft that has insurance
issues.

Part 18.11.2 of the regulations
dealing with aviation insurance states that “no person shall operate any
aircraft in the public air transport category without adequate and valid
insurance cover.”

Part 18.11.2.2 of the regulations
states that “any person having a duty to maintain adequate insurance shall
submit to the Authority on quarterly basis insurance certificates, evidence of
paying premium and policy documents.”

However, the Assistant Director,
Corporate Affairs, National Insurance Commission, Mr. Salami Rasaaq, said that
NAICOM did not have any direct business with Arik Air but with its insurance
company.

According to him, the commission
did not delay the insurance of the aircraft because the request for the
Approval in Principle was only submitted to it on Friday afternoon after the
close of work.

“When you submit a request, there
is due process to follow before you give an approval. A staff member on special
risk had to go to the office today (Tuesday), which is a public holiday, to
work on it, and we gave them one-month approval effective from today (Tuesday)
to expire on October 12, by which time they are expected to do everything
possible to get the one-year approval,” he said.

Rasaaq explained that the
commission had specified a minimum of 10 days to the expiration of the policy
for the request for the AIP.

“Because they were supposed to have
applied 10 days before, which is the minimum to the expiration of the AIP, but
the airline did not comply. But even if they did, the commissioner has said we
will always work on it because of the interest of the public,” he said.

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