Airfares Rise By 100 Per Cent As Workers Shut Arik

The plight of air passengers in the country worsened yesterday as Arik Air, the largest airline in West Africa, was shut down by protesting workers.

The workers, led by the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE), the Air Transport Senior Staff Services Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN) and the National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers (NAAPE), among others, embarked on the industrial action in protest against alleged seven-month unpaid salaries and other anti-labour issues.

The crisis in the country’s aviation sector will mount pressure on the already troubled road transport system and increase costs with serious implication on prices of goods and services during the yuletide.

Disrupted services in the air transport business will also cut into the revenue of government and regulatory agencies, which depend on operational charges to sustain oversight functions.

A retired pilot, John Ojikutu said irrespective of the cost on operators and regulators, airlines were overdue for economic auditing, to put them in check and save the country’s airspace.

The passengers that have been battling with the effects of the aviation fuel scarcity in the last one week, had their woes compounded as available aircraft were further reduced by 50 per cent due to the closure of Arik.

While other airlines like Air Peace, First Nation, Med-View, Dana Air, Overland and Azman could not take the spillover from Arik due to low capacity, about 100 per cent hike in ticket fares was noticed by Tuesday afternoon.

At the General Aviation Terminal (GAT) and Murtala Muhammed Airport II terminal, both in Lagos, for instance, an economic class ticket to Abuja that on Monday sold for between N27,500 and N32,000 was yesterday offered for N54,000. The business class equivalent of the ticket was given at N75, 800 to N80,000.

At most of the counters, however, the same flights were declared “fully booked,” with a backlog of passengers waiting due to delays which airlines blamed on “operational reasons.”

The Guardian learnt that the situation was not any different at the major airport terminals in Abuja, Port Harcourt and Kano as passengers waited endlessly for flights to arrive from Lagos.

It would be recalled that Arik Air and labour unions had been at loggerheads over alleged non-observance of industrial rules in the organisation, with threats to ground the airline to force compliance.

As early as 6:00 a.m. yesterday, Arik Air workers and others in solidarity, embarked on strike, shutting operations nationwide to demand the payment of outstanding salaries and observance of labour laws bordering on the welfare of workers.

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