Having witnessed several ugly incidents in the past weeks involving the outright neglect of passengers by Nigeria’s Arik Airlines, I feel the need to warn travellers worldwide to avoid them until a genuine change in their attitude toward customers is seen.

Virtue of my position, I am a regular traveller and was in Lagos, Nigeria for a conference on Monday, 4th January 2011. Scheduled to travel back to London on the morning of Wednesday, 6th January, I arrived at Nigeria’s Murtala Mohammed Airport and ran into a group of almost 200 passengers looking irritated, agitated and unkempt. With a few hours to spare, I decided to ascertain the nature of their troubles. I was shocked to learn that the passengers were due to leave the night before with Arik to Johannesburg, South Africa but had been kept in the airport for the duration of the entire night.

No hotel arrangements were made nor was food or beverages provided. The passengers received no explanation for the massive delay nor were they accorded any apology or respite. Most of the passengers, who were apparently returning from a church retreat, slept a minimal amount of hours on the uncomfortable airport chairs. The flight eventually left in the early hours of the afternoon, the airline surreptitiously and unrepentantly citing lack of fuel as the cause when I made my own enquiries.
 
This experience simply echoed that of my business colleague barely a week earlier. Travelling with Arik for the first time on the same route from Johannesburg to Lagos, he arrived to discover that the airline had offloaded approximately 180 passenger bags without any meaningful explanation. Apparently they had heavily overbooked the flight and decided to cover their error at the expense of their customer’s baggage. His scheduled meeting was delayed for over 48 hours as the bags, which were supposed to arrive the following morning, only reached Lagos late in the evening with a nearly 10 hour delay. Again, no respite or restitution was offered for the gross inconvenience. My friend’s vehement complaints were met with such appalling cynicism and lack of respect that he solemnly vowed to me he would never use the carrier again.
 
I have just one experience flying with Arik and sadly my prognosis matches the above accounts. Flying to J.F.K, again from Lagos, the flight was delayed for nearly eight hours, causing me to miss my connecting flight. When I demanded clarification from their office, I was met with the bizarre excuse that the pilot was down with malaria and they struggled to find a last minute replacement. I was forced to cancel a meeting that day and waited over 12 hours for the next available flight. No respite or refund was offered to me in the form of a hotel room or some refreshments. 
 
In the light of the above, I feel compelled to warn passengers to avoid using the services of Arik Airlines. Maybe if their numbers decrease, they will be forced to pay more attention to customer service and improve their abysmal record. I hold nothing personal against the staff and management of Arik but believe something must be done immediately to restore their dwindling reputation, most especially in the areas of customer service and punctuality. A brief online search revealed scores of similar complaints from disgruntled Arik customers. If they can’t take care of the needs of their passengers, even when unpredictable circumstances arise, they should not be surprised if passengers stop using their services.
 
Paul Botha
London, United Kingdom

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