January 5, 2011I was shocked this afternoon at the sight I witnessed at the boarding gate for an Arik Air flight from Lagos, Nigeria. A very large group of exhausted, irritated, unkempt looking international passengers were trying to get information about their flight. They looked like they hadnt slept in days. I was catching another flight at a different gate but I had to stop and ask them what had happened. One tired gentleman told me that they had been at the airport since 9pm the night before, in order to catch their flight to South Africa at 11pm. However, when they came to the boarding gate, they were not allowed to enter the plane. They were not sure what the cause of the problem was and were not given any information by Arik staff. They were simply told not to leave the boarding gate area. So they sat down thinking the delay would last an hour or two and they would be on their way home. The hours dragged by. Arik Air did not provide them with any answers, nor did they offer them hotel vouchers so they could wait comfortably for the next available flight, nor did they find them accommodation at the airport, nor did they provide meals for them or even snacks or drinking water. There is no toilet in the boarding gate area so there was no place for them to even go to the restroom or freshen up. They were not even given access to the lounge area so that they could rest. Only a few of them could find seats, the rest were sitting in their business suits on the floor. This is how over 200 international passengers were held against their will without information, without assistance, without even food or water for more than 15 hours! It should also be noted that these TWO HUNDRED PASSENGERS were international passengers, meaning they were in a foreign country so there was no option to go back to their homes and wait for their flight information. They had no home there and had been prevented from going home for reasons unknown to them. It is required of every airline to provide current, up to date information to their passengers. When there is a delay that is not due to the fault of the passenger, arrangements are to be made such as hotel vouchers, meal tickets, beverages and especially access to complete bathrooms!!! These passengers are human beings not cattle! Yet they were treated without due respect. This is not the first time Arik Air has behaved in a criminal matter. Many friends and associates have recounted stories of abuse at the hands of Arik Air. One business partner had his wallet taken from his seat pocket while he slept and $2,000 removed from it by an Arik staffer. He was the lone passenger in his row with an empty row both in front of him and behind him. The only one that could have bent over him while sleeping and been unnoticed would be the flight staff. A sister company of ours sent a team on retreat and when they arrived at their destination, the luggage for the entire flight had been left behind at the airport and there was no announcement made on board the plane before takeoff. But how can an airline leave all of the luggage on the tarmac and not load it before taking off?? That is incredulous! I believe if an inquiry is made, many more grievances, even worse than these, will be discovered. While I was discussing with the man, an Arik staff appeared and announced the flight was now running and would be taking the TWO HUNDRED PASSENGERS to their destination. When prodded for the reason for the delay, the staffer reluctantly informed them that the delay was a lack of fuel in the plane! This is outrageous and completely unacceptable. They have abused their position as an airline and their directors, managers and staff are not fit to run something so sensitive as an airline. We place our lives in the hands of airlines every day, trusting them to carry us safely from one location to another with our lives, our luggage and our decency in tact. Arik Air violates all of these trusts. Serious action should be taken to prevent our citizens from finding themselves trapped and abused at the hands of Arik Air.
New York, New York United States of America