Arik, an African Leader in the Air: Virgin Nigeria's Decision to Stop Its Long-Haul Services from Lagos to London and Lagos to Johannesburg, Has Left Arik Air International as a Major Alternative Nigerian Carrier. Stephen Williams Spoke to Dr Michael Arumemi-Ikhide, the Airline's Managing Director, about the Company's Achievements and Its Future Plans

Article excerpt

When Virgin Nigeria dropped its international services in January, citing competitive pressures on operating profitability, Arik Air International, inaugurated barely three years ago, was left as Nigeria's sole international airline. But despite Arik's relatively short operational experience, it has received in three years several important industry awards for the excellence of its service.

Dr Michael Arumemi-Ikhide, the company's managing director (pictured), attributes Arik's achievements to its focus on customer services. "Everything we do is driven by a desire to be world class," he stresses. "To achieve this, we have invested heavily in the latest technology with respect to aircraft maintenance and ground operations; we have recruited international airline experts; we have cherry-picked the best pilots from around the world; and we have invested significant time and effort in training out cabin crew to international standards."

Many satisfied customers have identified African hospitality as Arik's chief asset. Arumemi-Ikhide believes that his company has created and successfully introduced new levels of service and value for its customers--levels that were distinctly lacking in the industry.

Arik Air has an interesting history. Its founder and chairman, Sir J. I. A. Arumemi-Johnson, is a renowned Nigerian entrepreneur with extensive business interests across several economic sectors, but especially in Nigeria's oil industry. He incorporated the aviation company in 2004, having spent many years travelling throughout Nigeria and noting how poor the country's transport services were.

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The last straw appears to have been when the former flag-carrier, Nigeria Airways, finally went into liquidation in 2002, and he felt compelled to buy an executive jet for his business travels. When word got around among his business peers that he had acquired an aircraft, they also asked to use it so another jet was purchased and a corporate aircraft leasing business was launched.

The rest, as they say, is history. Arumemi-Johnson set out to find the right people and the right aircraft to build an airline that would set new standards and change the face of the aviation industry in Nigeria and Africa, at large. …