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Nigeria lists Arik Air, Bi-Courtney as major debtors to aviation agencies

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…operators owe N37 bln to FAAN, NCAA, etc

…Minister wants airline refund passengers when delay occur at airports

Nigeria aviation authority has listed Arik Air and Bi-Courtney as the major debtor operators in the industry as it put total debt owed aviation parastatals by airlines and other operators at N37 billion.

According to the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, who spoke at the state house, Abuja Thursday, the agencies owed by the airlines include Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA).

Arik Air and Bi-Courtney top the list of debtors, adding that “it is about N37 billion that they are owing, especially, Arik, the culprit. I know they’re owing us about, N13/N14 billion.

“If you’re owing government, you are owing FAAN, Bi-Courtney is owing about N14 billion as at the last count. The operator has not paid a single dime since the time he started to run the terminal building and we have not ceased giving him electricity, water, fire cover, and so on and so forth. He hasn’t paid a dime for 13 years,” Sirika said.

Arik Air is under the management of the country’s ‘bad bank,’ Assets Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) due to huge debt owed the corporation, while Bi-Courtney ismajorly owned by Wale Babalakin, a senior advocate.

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The minister also said airline must refund the full cost of travel tickets to passengers after a two-hour delay, while also urging travelers to demand the rights without being unruly.

He read some of the rights of aviation passengers at the briefing and charged them to demand their rights whenever they are being trampled upon by airlines.

“On domestic flights, delay beyond one hour, carrier should provide refreshment, and one telephone call, or one SMS, or one e-mail. They should send you an SMS or email or call you to say, ‘I am sorry, I am delaying for one hour’.

“Delay for two hours and beyond, the carrier shall reimburse passengers the full volume of their tickets.

“Delay between 10pm and 4am, carrier shall provide hotel accommodation, refreshment, meal, two free calls, SMS, email and transport to-and-fro airport,” Sirika said, adding that the same rules apply for international flights.

The minister, who said his ministry has started sanctioning some airlines who default on consumer rights, however, urged passengers not to be unruly at airports.

Of late, flight cancellations and delays have characterised inter-city air transportation in Nigeria, with many passengers scolding the about 10 commercial airlines operating scheduled flights for keeping them waiting at airports for hours after their scheduled departure time.

However, at a session with the Senate Committee on Aviation this week, Airline operators blamed the challenges in the industry on non-availability and rising cost of aviation fuel, also known as JetA1 and inadequate parking spaces at airports.

The operators, led by the Chairman of Air Peace, Allen Onyema, on Tuesday, demanded the prosecution of unruly passengers at the Airports.

Other reasons cited by Onyema were non-availability of forex for spare parts and maintenance, sudden change of weather, delay due to VIP movement, inefficient passenger access and facilitation, delay clearance of spare parts from Customs and inadequate screening and exit points at departure.

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