Captain John Okakpu, an aviation expert, has berated rumour mongers for damaging public support and confidence in the sector.
Capt. Okakpu who was reacting to public outcry over alleged negligence of the airline on its aircrafts maintenance, said that such destructive and baseless allegations are counter-productive, particularly now the industry is hugely impacted by the nation’s economic disequilibrium.
It could be recalled that barely 24 hours Arik Air, West and Central Africa’s largest carrier disclosed the increasing of its flight frequencies to key domestic destinations ahead of the Christmas and New Year festivities to cope with passenger demands, the social media was inundated with the most disturbing allegations that the airline takes safety of its aircraft in a pinch of salt.
But, Captain Okakpu said that safety is the first obligation of any airline, adding that in the present circumstances in Nigeria, Arik is the only structured airline in West Africa with state of the art maintenance facility.
He said, “I am neither a management nor staff of Arik Air, but as a stakeholder in this industry, it beats my imagination for some people to believe wholeheartedly that Arik would play down on safety knowing very well that any slightest mistake leads to catastrophic end.
“Though the airline has refuted the allegation, appealing to its esteemed guests to ignore any message alleging that the airline’s aircraft are not well maintained, it is still quite instructive to plead with Nigerians not to kill this 'baby' through rumour mongering.
“As a stakeholder in the aviation industry, I can't play ignorant of the fact flights are delayed or cancelled, leaving bad impressions on the minds of the passengers. But that is totally different from ignoring safety measures or better put, the need to totally adhere to safety measures could lead to flight delays.
“This could have informed the airline's decision to "increase flight frequencies on the domestic routes as predicated on the need to ensure that many Nigerians are able to travel home to share the joy of the season with family and friends," Capt. Okakpu said.
To also cope with the demands of its international passengers on the London Heathrow and New York JFK routes, the airline leased a wide-body A340-300 from Portugal to supplement its wide-body fleet of two A330-200 aircraft.
“It wouldn’t be possible for Arik Air to connect 18 destinations within Nigeria, 10 in West/Central Africa and three international destinations. Therefore, instead of the average 100 daily flights normally operated, the airline, during the festive period, increases its daily flights to an average of 120.
“It is not only un-dignifying, and unpatriotic, but malicious, cheap blackmail and total sabotage for someone to make such baseless allegations just to deceive the public. Even now businesses are bleeding profusely; it’s sickening to hear some obnoxious minds engaging on 'pull them down' approach. Too bad!”
He added should Arik depart from ICAO set standards, “we have the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) to deal with them. However, I can testify that Arik' pride as "leading the resurgence of Nigerian civil aviation by committing to being a quality airline adhering and operating to international safety and operational standards using modern aircraft and having high maintenance and safety standards', is never a cacophony.
“Mischief makers are deceivers. If not, why didn't they inform the innocent public that Arik has $1.8m per month labor only maintenance contract with Lufthansa for all their aircraft. Arik also has over $250m parts in their inventory. Arik is the only structured airline in West Africa with state of the art maintenance facility”.
He urged aviation passengers and other stakeholders to support the industry, especially in its intensified efforts to maintain safety and security on air and on ground activities.