Arik Air, oh! Arik Air! It’s really sad what has become of thee!
Pardon my King James English but Arik Air was one of the ‘it’ airlines in Nigeria, the biggest commercial carrier from the country. Their tickets were rather pricey compared to other local flights, making it premium to fly Arik Air for local routes.
I remember going to their ticketing office at the international airport in 2006/2007, the staff members decked out in dark blue and wine red uniforms were courteous, prompt in attending to guests, resolved queries easily and the flights took off as scheduled.
In 2007, shortly after our NYSC, one of my friends got a job with Arik Air, and men it was so cool, working with the airline was a prestigious thing. So also was working with Virgin Nigeria. Virgin Nigeria, just like Arik Air was another prestigious airline then and flying local routes in Nigeria was really easy and fun.
Sadly though, the fun didn’t last so long as Virgin Nigeria started having issues and before we knew it, the carrier became Nigerian Eagle and then Air Nigeria before finally disappearing into thin air after Jimoh Ibrahim acquired the company.
The truth is that airlines in Nigeria whether privately owned or government owned usually fall ‘yakata’ after a while. For private airlines, this has to do with the harsh Nigerian business climate but for government owned airlines; over-staffing, corruption and mismanagement hold sway, eventually crippling operations.
Fast forward to 2014, I was on my way to Gambia and I was flying Arik Air. My flight was for 12 noon or thereabout. I arrived at the airport early, finished my check-in and was pretty eager to fly. However, the wait had just begun. At the lounge where we were waiting for the flight, I met other people who had Arik Air tickets to Gambia for like 7am and some for 10am, they were quiet upset and mumbled at how they’ve been made to wait. I was a bit hopeful that we would soon take off. The waiting lingered, seconds turned to minutes, minutes turned to hours, no flights, no explanations, nothing. People got angry, and protested but nothing really happened. Finally at about 4pm, we started seeing signs that we would finally be leaving Nigeria that day. By 5pm Nigerian time, we were airborne and I heaved a sigh of relief. Shortly after that, on social media, we started seeing video clips, pictures, tweets and comments from angry Arik Customers.
The current take-over of Arik Air by AMCON isn’t a thing of joy. Aero Contractors was taken over by AMCON and shortly after they closed operations. I’m yet to see an Airline’s issues resolved by AMCON taking over operations, I mean AMCON belongs to the government and the Nigerian government doesn’t have any track record of running viable businesses. I do hope they prove me wrong this time around and until then, I’ll reserve my ‘Adieu’ to Arik Air.