Arik Air has attributed its inability to operate international flights on December 28 to the non-availability of its A330-200 aircraft, the disruption of its operations by New York-bound passengers as well as the closure of the Lagos airspace due to poor visibility.
News Gazette reported on December 28 that the airline’s London- and Johannesburg-bound passengers were stranded at the international wing of the Murtala Muhammed Airport.
Consequently, the airline’s staff abandoned their duty post at the airport thus forcing the aggrieved passengers to take it out on staff of the consumer protection directorate of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA).
In a statement issued late night yesterday (Wednesday), spokesman for the airline, Mr. Adebanji Ola said:
“Due to the damage to Arik Air’s A330-200 aircraft (registration 5N-JIC) by a ground handling company at JFK International Airport, New York, USA a few days ago, the airline had to invest in chartering a B767-300ER aircraft from a European charter operator to minimize the disruption and inconvenience to booked passengers on its Lagos-New York JFK service. This arrangement was put in place to cover for the period until the return to service of our A330-200 aircraft on 28 December, 2016.
“The Lagos-New York flight which was scheduled to be operated by the charter company and depart Lagos on Tuesday, December 27, 2016 at 11:00am could not operate due to the closure of Lagos airspace for several hours due to bad weather (poor visibility).
“Despite the airline’s repeated appeals to the charter operator to operate the next fight, they insisted on positioning their crew and aircraft back to Europe on Wednesday, December 28, 2016.
“While these negotiations were on with the charter operator and Arik Air was reviewing available alternate options, unfortunately, some of the New York bound passengers on Wednesday, 28 December 2016 prevented the airline from checking in passengers booked for other destinations resulting in significant delays and cancellations of some flights. These passengers also delayed the check-in of Lagos-London Heathrow flight of Wednesday, 28 December 2016 despite making them aware that London Heathrow Airport enforces a night curfew and the consequential impact on other passengers of such unlawful disruptions.”
While the passengers disrupted the airline’s operations, Ola said “no assistance was available from the aviation security (AVSEC) department of the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) to contain the disruptive passengers and ensure they act in an orderly and civilized manner.”
However, he said the airline would bring back the A330-200 aircraft and would begin flying the passengers to their destination today (December 29).
“Arik Air commenced the ferry back of its A330-200 aircraft from New York to Lagos on Wednesday, December 28, 2016 and this aircraft is expected to arrive in Lagos on Thursday, December 29, 2016.
“Passengers originally booked on Arik Air’s flight W3 107 on Tuesday, 27 December 2016 from Lagos to New York JFK will now be accommodated to travel on Thursday, December 29, 2016,” he said.
He appealed for the understanding of passengers booked on the Lagos-New York service and assured that regular operations will be normalised from today (Thursday).