Arik Air has responded to the fine slammed on it by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) over delay in bringing baggage of its passengers who travelled on its flights from London Heathrow to Lagos on the 2nd, 3rd and 4th of December, 2016.
The airline described the NCAA’s action of publicising the sanction as unprofessional, saying the regulatory authority did not allow it to formally respond to its letter it earlier sent to it.
NCAA had on Tuesday slammed a N6 million fine on Arik Air over the delay in returning passengers’ luggage even as it ordered the airline to pay each of the affected passengers $USD150 compensation within seven days.
However, the airline in a response to the sanction explained that the NCAA had on December 16 invited it to "an informal meeting" where it (Arik Air) explained the challenges in bringing all the passengers’ luggage to the NCAA.
According to a statement by the airline’s Public Relations Manager, Mr. Adebanji Ola, despite meeting with the airline, NCAA issued a letter with reference number NCAA/DG/CSLA/RM/1-06/16/439 on 22nd December, 2016.
The statement read in part: "The NCAA’s action of publicising this letter before the airline has had an opportunity to formally respond to them by the deadline stated in their letter is rather unprofessional.
"Arik Air did everything possible to ensure the London passengers got their baggage in good time. When the airline’s wide body A330-200 aircraft was damaged by a ground handling truck, it deployed a B737-800 on the London route to minimise the disruption to the passengers.
"All passengers checking in from London were given a letter informing them of the capacity limitation and weight restriction on this aircraft type and advised that some of their baggage would be delayed because of this and transported on the next available flight with capacity.
"All passengers were accepted on to the flight based on this understanding. However, after arriving in Lagos some of them formed pressure groups and took the laws into their own hands disrupting the operations of the airline, assaulting the airline’s employees and destroying its property. Some of the airline’s employees were beaten and hospitalised and some of them are still receiving medical treatment as of date".
The airline explained further that in order to address the reduction in capacity and backlog of baggage, Arik Air leased another wide body A340-300 aircraft to complement its B737-800 aircraft to ensure the delayed baggage got back to Lagos in good time.
It added however that some of the passengers disrupted its operations for several days thereby making it impossible for the aircraft to operate from Lagos and return from London Heathrow before the night curfew, further preventing the short landed bags from being recovered.
"Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) security did nothing to prevent the passengers from disrupting the airline’s operations or in providing adequate security to the airline and its personnel to enable the flights to leave on time thereby preventing a quicker resolution in the recovery of baggage. Some FAAN security personnel were also encouraging passengers to disrupt checking-in process and seated themselves on top of Arik Air check-in counters."
"Arik Air uses this medium to communicate to all stakeholders that we would be formally addressing each of the issues raised in the NCAA statement and in their letter within the seven (7) working days deadline stated in their letter.
"The airline also appeals to all the industry stakeholders and agencies to uphold and protect the rights of operating airlines in the country in dealing with total lawlessness and security breaches by individuals".