There was pandemonium at the Arik Air Stand at the Ibom International Airport in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, over the refusal of the management of the airline staff to explain the incessant cancellation of flights to agitated passengers.
The passengers were booked on an Arik Air flight W3 417 to Abuja which was scheduled for 11: 45am on Tuesday, August 30, 2016.
However, when the passengers arrived Arik stand for booking for the flight to Abuja, a female flight attendant casually told them their flight had been ‘stood down’.
The Arik staff did not make any further clarification of what ‘stood down’ meant to the worried passengers who demanded explanation.
In her response the lady made no effort to clear the air of uncertainty over the flight as she said that an aircraft might come to pick them.
Not satisfied with the explanation of the Arik staff, the passengers approached the station manager, Mr. Emmanuel Okon, who assured that the flight would leave between 12 and 1pm.
But the promise was not to be fulfilled as the manager and his team made no effort to explain the flight delay from 11:25am to 5pm.
By 5:15 PM, an Arik aircraft from Lagos arrived Uyo, but was quietly moved to the hanger despite an earlier announcement that the expected flight was on the way.
When the passengers comprising the former president of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, Dr. Dipo Fashina, the assistant general secretary of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Mr. Nuhu Toro, some journalists from Punch and National Mirrror, accosted him for explanation, he got angry and asked everybody to keep quiet and listen to him.
Prior to this incident, Arik management had aborted its flight to Uyo which was to pick some officials of the NLC to Abuja. The disappointed passengers abandoned their ticket for a Dana flight to Abuja.
The station manager in his explanation, which was his first contact with the passengers since 11am , said that the aircraft had a bird strike and could no longer take-off to Abuja as earlier scheduled.
He then made to leave without any further explanation which prompted the bewildered passengers to demand measures being put in place to address the issue.
In the process, he and his colleagues threatened to beat up some of the passengers. The loud argument that followed attracted a large number of security personnel who saw the plight of the passengers and appealed for understanding.
Although, the security personnel were mature and did not harass anybody, the Arik Staff were not as they threatened to ‘deal’ with some of the aggrieved passengers and detain them if they were rude to the manager who was also threatening.
It was at he end of the argument that the manager said that the management of Arik had arranged to move a flight from Lagos to pick the passengers. He thereafter apologized to the passengers.
Investigation however revealed that Arik management had given instruction to the station manager to rest the plane which was billed to take 300 passengers to Ghana.
The source said that the manager lacked the capacity to put the aircraft on the Abuja route without authorization from his operational head.
As of the time of filing the story, the aircraft from Lagos had not landed in Abuja.
Prior to the disagreement over the flagrant cancellation of the flights, the passengers had called the Spokesman of Arik, Mr. Banji Ola, who promised to call the station manager.
The managers promise that the flight would take off between 12:30pm to 1pm was also relayed to him.
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