The new management of Arik Airline will this week scale down flight operations to realign with the number of serviceable aircraft currently at its disposal.
The new schedule, it was learnt, will mean smaller number of flights per day, compared to about 100 to 120 the airline ran some months ago.
With limited frequencies on some high-traffic domestic routes, and temporary suspension of others including the internationals, passengers may be faced with limited options. There may also be further reduction in the revenue accruing to the airline, regulators and government agencies.
The Assets Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON), owned by the Federal Government, last week took over the managerial control of Arik Air to save the carrier from collapse due to a heavy financial debt burden.
Arik, the largest carrier in West and Central Africa, was accused of bad corporate governance, erratic operational challenges, inability to pay staff salaries and a heavy debt burden, among others.
Upon AMCON’s takeover, it was discovered that the airline’s 28 aircraft fleet size is left with 10 functional planes, with 10 in overseas and eight grounded at the Lagos airport.
The Federal Government on Friday said plans were on to return the 10 aircraft stuck overseas over unpaid maintenance cost to boost the capacity of the airline.
Sources at AMCON confirmed that a temporary scale-down of operations had been agreed pending the arrival of more aircraft. The measure is to ensure efficient services and put an end to the era of flight cancellations.
A source, who would not want to be mentioned, said: “The management is planning to stabilise its operations by scaling down flight operations based on the number of serviceable aircraft at its disposal, until more aircraft return from C-check and maintenance yards abroad. Therefore, a new schedule will be announced in the next few days to accommodate its existing fleet of 10 aircraft.”
While the airline’s Lagos-New York services had been suspended, the Lagos-London and Lagos-Johannesburg flights ran at the weekend.
Head of the Corporate Communications Department of AMCON, Jude Nwauzor, stated that the “mess” met on ground was actually bigger than anticipated, and that it would require over N10 billion to fix the rot before the airline could resume full and uninterrupted operations to its regular routes across the country and beyond.
“It appears that unlike previously recorded, Arik has debts in excess of N300 billion, especially with some banks, excluding fuel suppliers, lessors and maintenance companies.
“Due to government’s intervention, operations are continuing and the insurance cover for the aircraft which would have expired on Sunday, 12 February has now been sorted out. Trade creditors and fuel marketers have been assured that all indebtedness will be looked into; they have offered to support the new management to get operations run smoothly.