Airline operators have warned that spreading rumours of plane crashes will damage the aviation industry and would also lead to Nigerians shunning the fastest and safest means of transport to alternatives like road transport, which is more precarious because only 30 percent of Nigerian roads are good.
This they said would affect social economic activities in the country and may lead to high rate of road accidents and more lives would be lost.
The operators gave the warning after rumours of Dana Air flight crash last week, followed by online warning urging Nigerians not to fly Arik Air, adding that since 2013 Nigeria has not recorded any air disaster and with the efficient regulation of the industry by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), the days of air disaster have gone for good.
One of the members of the Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) and the CEO of ABX World, Captain John Okakpu, slammed the rumour mongers and said that such destructive and baseless allegations are counter-productive, particularly now the industry is hugely impacted by the nation’s economic disequilibrium.
He noted that barely 24 hours after Arik Air, announced that it was increasing 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’s fleet was not safe.
But, Captain Okakpu said 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.
“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.
Okakpu acknowledged the flight delays, flight cancellations caused largely by the operational environment, aviation fuel scarcity and other issues, but noted that no airline can compromise safety because of these limitations.
“As a stakeholder in the aviation industry, I can’t play ignorant of the fact that 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.
Okakpu explained that to also cope with the demands of its international passengers on the London Heathrow and New York JFK routes, Arik Air leased a wide-body Airbus A340-300 from Portugal to supplement its wide-body fleet of two A330-200 aircraft.
THISDAY also learnt that Dana Air is investigating the source of the rumour that its aircraft was involved in a crash on December 11, which almost sent passengers out of the airports.
Okakpu described the rumour mongers as mischief makers and said that his airline partners with Arik Air so he is aware that Arik has $1.8 million per month maintenance contract with Lufthansa for all its aircraft, adding that Arik also has over $250m parts in their inventory.
He therefore urged air passengers and other stakeholders to support the industry, especially in its intensified efforts to maintain safety and security on air and on ground activities.