It has now been discovered that Nigeria’s largest but heavily indebted airline, Arik Air, was in a deeper and darker financial mess than previously thought, sources said on Saturday, 48 hours after the government intervened to rescue what was left of it.
Sources said Arik’s debts were in excess of N300 billion, especially with some banks, excluding fuel suppliers, lessors and maintenance companies, while the fleet size had shrunk from 28 aircraft to only 10 operational planes.
Worse, virtually all of Arik’s trade creditors were being owed and staff salaries had not been paid for between 4- 6 months when the government intervened on Thursday.
Due to government’s intervention, operations are continuing and the insurance cover for the aircraft which would have expired on Sunday, 12 February has now been sorted out, it was learnt.
Trade creditors and fuel marketers have been assured that all indebtedness will be looked into; they have offered to support the new management to get operations run smoothly.
Previously the fuel suppliers had suspended credit facilities, but the airline is working to ensure steady fuel supply, which had been the cause of the airline’s erratic operations.
Flight schedule may therefore be realigned to match the 10 aircraft in the fleet, while sorting out the myriad of problems confronting the airline.
A source near the airline confirmed that the management is looking to stabilise its operation by scaling down flight operations based on the number of serviceable aircraft at its disposal, until more aircraft return from C-check and maintenance yards abroad. Therefore a new schedule will be announced in the next few days to accommodate its existing fleet of 10 aircraft.
“It is obvious that without Government intervention Arik would have virtually stopped operation by Monday of next week. We need public support to understand the enormity of the challenges here, while we stabilise operations over the next few days, as we offer safe, secure and timely services to customers.