Captain Roy Ilegbodu, the Chief Executive Officer of Arik Air (appointed by Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON), says the interim management of the airline now has eight operational aircraft in the fleet, which has stabilized the hitherto epileptic operations of the airline before AMCON intervention.
He also disclosed that Arik refunds between N65 to N75 million every week as a result of cancelled air tickets from the past administration.
Speaking in Lagos on Tuesday, the CEO said despite the huge debt it inherited from the old management, Arik, under his leadership, has retaken its place as the number one airline in Nigeria — in terms of number of passengers and on time performance among other indices.
He said, “We met this on ground when we came; a lot of people demanding refund for tickets they bought but was cancelled due to no fault of theirs. We have been addressing that issue. We have actually made quite a lot of refunds,” Ilegbodu said.
“I would say, on the average, between N65 million and 75 million is paid on a weekly basis in terms of refund. That is not small, that is substantial considering the fact that while we are doing that, we are also having to inject funds into our current operations. We also have arrangement where we hand our passengers over to third party airlines to take them to the destinations because we value our passengers.
“Ideally, one would say you would not even talk about anything that the past management of Arik did, because you need your funds to move forward, but we have actually thought through the whole situation and agreed that we need to be very careful the way we go about this considering the fact that we are dealing with the same passengers we are working at attracting back to fly Arik as their airline of choice.
“I believe we have been doing well on that note. Some of the people that come daily are some of those that are not even aware that there is a system in place. So they probably did not come here since last year.
“By the time they come here and we talk to them, I am sure they will be satisfied, and if we say we would pay them in a week, we would pay them in a week.”
He added that the airline has no plans yet to resume international flights, considering the huge debts owed to international organisations in the US, UK and Canada.
Again he said, “When you suspend oparations to international routes like that, you need three months or 90 days, which would enable you sort out all the issues that led to the suspension. In the case of Arik before we came in, the debt profile was huge and those international business partners are not what you wish away and resume operations without settling all the outstanding. But as I speak with you, the Receiver Manager is actually meeting with them out there to agree on the way forward.”
Ilegbodu said Arik flew about 3,000 passengers on Friday, April 28, 2017, which justifies the assumption that Arik passengers that were offended by Arik’s unreliable behavior before AMCON came in are gradually returning.
When the Assets Management Company of Nigeria (AMCON) took over Arik in February, the airline operated about 30 aircraft with no spare parts. The new management cut down the fleet to meet up with safety requirements and regain customers and stakeholders’ confidence.
The new CEO says Arik will return to 14 planes by mid-May, as it regains stability and concludes audit. Currently, KPMG, one of the biggest audit firms in the world is auditing the company’s account as managed by the last management to determine level of indebtedness and chart a course forward.
So far, we gathered that AMCON has invested N1.5 billion (and counting) in the Arik since February, 2017.