By Chinedu Eze
The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Arik Air, Captain Roy Ilegbodu has said that the mission of Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) is to build up the company to the position that it would become financially stable to repair its loans.
Ilegbodu said that since AMCON took over the management of the company, it has been recording improvements, from four to six operational aircraft when it took over on February 9, 2017 to about 15 currently and with at least 10-12 operational aircraft at any point in time.
The CEO said that at the beginning, it was airlifting about 1400 passengers daily but currently, the airline records average of about 5000 passengers per day.
Due to the yearnings of its teeming passengers, Ilegbodu said the airline has resumed services to domestic and sun-regional destinations it suspended in 2017 and would also introduce new destinations in the coming weeks and months.
Speaking at a training forum organised by the airline for its travel agents in Lagos, Ilegbodu said that many Nigerians want the airline to open the international routes but the airline cannot operate international destinations without proper planning.
Ilegbodu, who made it clear that an airline should be well positioned before going on international routes said such possibility would be reviewed in future.
“You should also go with the right aircraft in terms of fuel efficiency, seat capacity and things like that and then have fall back aircraft, such that when the operation aircraft is down on AOG (aircraft on ground), there is a support aircraft that enables you to recover your service quickly”, he said.
The CEO who was represented by the Chief Commercial Officer and Head Receivership Support of Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON), Mr. Omokide Kamilu, also pointed out that if an airline does not have all those things well arranged and go to the international routes, the carrier will surely burn its fingers.
According to him, deciding to operate long haul destinations is a decision for Arik Air to make and it would be carefully made.
On the plans AMCON have for Arik, Ilegbodu stated: “We are very clear as AMCON as to what our role in Arik is. We’re primarily a debt recovery company. We were set up by the federal government to stabilise the banking industry primarily and by extension companies that have borrowed from the banking industry.”
“The aviation industry is very critical to Nigerian economy. Arik too is big, Aero is big, that’s why you see a lot of direct AMCON interest in those companies, otherwise we wouldn’t be. Our job is to recover our money and in doing this we also want the Nigerian people to get some benefit by stabilising this company”, Ilegbodu added.
Stating that Arik Air is currently on about 15 aircraft while running between 10 and 12 aircraft, Ilegbodu said that Arik Air left Maiduguri route but has now reopened it and that the route is doing well.
“We are planning to reopen Bauchi very soon under a partnership with the government. We plan to open other routes and opened some routes in the West Coast taking advantage of our increased capabilities”, he said.
Meanwhile, travel agents who spoke to journalists commended AMCON, stressing that the airline has fully regained air passengers’ confidence unlike before.
Phillip Adeleke of Bon Voyage Travels said that, with innovations AMCON has put in place, confidence has fully returned and that air passengers have developed interest once again in the airline.