Arik Air has been the poster boy for all that is wrong with our aviation sector. Someday, passengers will vote with their feet
Think Arik and think poor employee conditions and how not to run a business in the 21st century.
Arik Air has got them all.
This week, Arik has been in the news for all the wrong reasons. Again.
Passengers took the laws into their hands and thoroughly beat up the airline's Customer Service Manager, Mr Andrew Umogbai, after the Lagos-Johannesburg flight was rescheduled for three consecutive days without any explanations whatsoever from Arik's management.
"Give us our money back", some of the irate passengers chanted, threatening fire and brimstone.
"We need an explanation", one lady howled.
Umogbai had none.
He should have known what was coming next.
Umogbai was backing out of the crowd.
"Where you dey go?" someone yelled.
The chants became a deafening roar as the mob chased after a Customer Service Manager who at this point must have genuinely feared for his life.
The departure lounge of the Murtala Mohammed Airport in Lagos had become a wrestling ring for Umogbai and the crowd who were now baying for blood.
"Follow am!" someone ordered and the mob obeyed.
"You dey mad?"
One man draped in all white made for Umogbai's shirt. He wanted nothing else but the hem of Umogbai's garment.
He got none. So, he threw a punch instead. The first flurry of punches didn't land. The Customer Service chap ducked a blow and then another.
This was like watching Floyd Mayweather on his way to another technical victory.
The rest of the blows landed, though.
In one swift movement, Umogbai and white attire were locked in each other's arms and then Mr. white attire threw the manager to the floor.
"Oya weyrey ni?" (have you gone mad?)
Customer Service manager was now on the floor, his shirt unbuttoned, his face cloaked in embarrassment and the colour of crimson.
ALSO READ: What are we going to do about Arik?
This wasn't the kind of work day his wife had kissed him goodbye for.
Someone rescued Umogbai from the floor and shoved him out of sight as the crowd chanted some more. They were tasting blood.
"Why would they take our money?", another chant rang.
It was a sorry sight and violence shouldn't be encouraged as means to some end.
No one should be allowed to take the laws into their hands in this manner.
But Arik shouldn't say it never saw this day coming.
Arik Air has been such a bad boy. It has acted with such impunity for far too long.
This wasn't its comeuppance but it was close. The real comeuppance will be when Arik has a real competition on its hands, so much so that it has no one to fly in its planes.
The real punishment will be when passengers begin voting with their feet.
And that day may not be afar off.
On a trip from PortHarcourt to Lagos a month ago, no one in the company of journalists on the tour with me, wanted to touch Arik with a long pole. Everyone waited for the 3pm Azman flight.
Arik was considered too risky.
"You'll probably get to fly the next day", said a journalist with ThisDay Newspapers.
Arik Airline has become the poster boy for all that is wrong with the nation's aviation sector.
It has left passengers on its international route without ventilation, not too long ago. Customers had to take off their shirts and dresses to survive the sultry conditions.
Just ask singer Banky W.
The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has imposed a fine of N6M (six million naira) on Arik for its troubles.
It's a slap on the wrist.
"The NCAA has done its part in sanctioning the airline in accordance with international civil aviation rules and regulations", said Sam Adurogboye, NCAA spokesperson.
“However, Arik Air has a right to appeal against the sanctions and I am sure that they have done that and we have to wait until the determination of the appeal before taking any further action,’’ he added.
Arik is fighting back.
The company is blaming its poor services on a lack of aviation fuel.
Said Arik Communications Manager, Ola Adebanji: “Aviation fuel supply has been epileptic in the country over the past weeks where availability of stock and terms of service are not guaranteed on a consistent basis by the marketers.
“Passengers continue to take the laws into their hands and the severity and frequencies of such criminal acts are on the rise due to lack of appropriate action or preventative measures from the security agencies.
“The resort to verbal or physical violence in any form by a passenger is not acceptable to Arik Air and the airline would henceforth deploy all measures necessary against any passenger who takes the law into his hands.”
It's a classic case of a poor workman blaming his tools for a poor job.
Someday, hopefully, Nigeria's aviation sector will be so suffused with airlines and choices, we'll be able to give the likes of Arik the cold shoulder they truly deserve and run them out of business.
No Airline this horrible should still be in business.