ARIK Air has been voted as the Airline of the Decade for the 10-year period between 2010 and 2020 at the Travellers Award 2020 organised by publishers of African Travel Quarterly (ATQ)/Travellers magazine.
During the awards ceremony recently held in Abuja, Ikechi Ukoh, the publisher of ATQ magazine and tourism ambassador, said Arik Air was the choice for the Airline of the Decade because it still holds the flag of its time in the sun. Of late, the airline has had serious financial difficulties, forcing it to enter into receivership in February 2017 due to its inability to pay workers and creditors.
As a result of this failure, the Nigerian government has taken control of the company via the state-owned Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (Amcon). Arik was founded over a decade ago and became West Africa’s biggest carrier by passenger numbers, flying 55% of Nigeria’s domestic flights as well as transcontinental routes to London and New York before it ran into trouble.
Mr Ukoh said: “Arik Air is still a global brand from Nigeria. Kudos goes to the founders and the workers who helped build the brand.”
He added that Arik Air has so far proved resilient as well as demystified the myth that no Nigerian carrier with 10 aircraft last beyond 10 years. Arik’s ongoing difficulties, however, resulted in Amcon temporarily suspending the company’s service to New York and grounded more than eight of its planes.
Responding while receiving the award from Wendell De Landro, the Trinidad and Tobago ambassador to Nigeria, Arik Air’s chief pilot, Captain Chris Najomo, thanked the organisers of the award for finding the airline worthy of the honour. He said Arik Air would continue to be a safe, reliable and customer focused carrier.
Ariks’ debt was estimated to be around N147bn and Amcon also suggested that the airline owed some local banks over N165bn. Its foreign debts stood at $81m and the airline also owed over 2,000 staff between six and seven months’ salary arrears.