Turbulence and Triumph: Arik Air On Flight to Success in Airline Industry

West Africa’s largest commercial airline boasts over 6 million annual domestic flyers

(Image: Arik Air)

“Nigerians are proud of their heritage and [Sir Arumemi-Ikhide] wants the airline to be a point of national pride,” said Bob Brunner, Arik’s VP of the America’s, to the Huffington Post earlier this year. “We want a business that shows Nigerians can run a global, service oriented business which can successfully compete with the well-known airline brands. A business all Nigerian’s can be proud to look at and say, ‘That’s my national airline!’ ”

This mission is obvious to anyone who boards an Arik flight. From decor to uniforms to traditional cuisine served on flights, patriotism is the hallmark of an in-flight experience with Arik. It’s a selling point that’s netted the airline millions of customers and just as many dollars in annual revenue. While Arik declined to provide figures, it is rumored they make tens of millions annually. The profits have propelled the expansion of Arik from their inaugural domestic route to several world-wide destinations including Johannesburg, London and New York.

Ironically, their success hasn’t meant exclusion from the drama that engulfs their competitors. In fact, there are times when it seems to have attracted it. In the last five years, Arik has endured well publicized clashes with Nigeria’s Ministry of Aviation and the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria due to what Arik has described as their “persistent hostility.” It culminated last September with a strike by members of the Federal Airport Authority at Muhammad Murtala Airport in Lagos, leading to a two-day termination of all of Arik’s domestic flights in Nigeria.

“The situation is now fully resolved and we don’t expect any future disruption,” Brunner told BlackEnterprise.com when asked about the situation.

That remains to be seen. “Disruptions” seem par for the course in a market marked by anachronistic aviation infrastructure including inconsistent electricity and national facilities that don’t allow for aircrafts to take off after dark. Despite such setbacks, Arik keeps moving forward with notable milestones. Toward the end of 2012, the airline announced it had serviced its 10 millionth passenger as well as expanded service in West Africa with a new Lagos to Douala, Cameroon flight. Such tangible milestones in a fluctuating market have kept Arik’s position constant and their point of difference clear: By flying above the drama, they are not just telling a new story about Nigeria’s airlines, they are changing the script.

Zandile Blay is a style & culture journalist with a focus on Africa. She is a columnist for the Huffington Post and founder of Africa Style Daily.

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