By Kenneth Ehigiator
London-bound stranded passengers of Arik Air, Wednesday, threatened to disrupt operations at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, if they were not airlifted immediately. They claimed to have ran out out of cash.
They accused the airline of shifting commencement of airlift to 29 April when other carriers such as British Airways and Virgin Atlantic Airways had started evacuating their stranded passengers to London since Tuesday.
But the airlines’ spokesman, Mr. Banji Ola, explained that the airline was yet to get clearance from the British authorities to fly into Heathrow Airport in London.
The aggrieved passengers said they had shown sufficient understanding for the airline, especially as the reason for the delay in their airlift was a natural phenomenon, but stressed that now that most airspaces had been re-opened in Europe, including Britain, there was no reason for Arik not to evacuate them.
One of the passengers, Mrs. Abimbola Onasile, a staff of the University of Leeds, said she was to have returned to work since 17 April, but for the volcanic eruption in Iceland which led to airspace closure.
She expressed concern that now that the airspace had been re-opened in the United Kingdom, her employers would listen to no excuses for not resuming work.
Mrs. Onasile lamented that she might not be able to leave the country until 29 April which the airline said would be the date of commencing operation.
Another passenger, Dr. Dennis Umoren, who works in England, said he was expected to have resumed work last Monday, adding that not even the upgrade of his ticket and those of his wife and nephew from Economy to Business Class had been a way out for him.
The case of Miss Rabi Sani Santos, a diabetic patient, was pathetic, as she had ran out of cash and the insulin she needed to administer on daily basis to stabilise her health condition.
She dispelledÂ claims by the airline that its stranded passengers were checked into hotels, adding that she ran out of cash because nobody took care of her and other stranded passengers.
The passengers expressed worry that though the airline had said it would not commence flight until 29 April, they were not even sure of getting seats in the plane.
According to her, more than 500 persons have been checked into that flight, which is beyond the capacity of the plane used for the flight.
They alleged their eagerness to meet with the airlineâ€™s chief executive to re-assure them of airlift was frustrated by some of the staff.
They appealed to the airline to give priority to passengers who were to have travelled on April 15, but were disembarked after they had secured boarding passes, passed through security screening and sat in the plane before they were asked out of the aircraft because of volcanic eruption in Iceland.
But speaking through its spokesman, Banji Ola, Arik Air said it was not its intention to deliberately keep the passengers stranded, adding its inability to evacuate them was due to non-receipt of clearance from the British authorities to fly into Heathrow.
â€œWe will start evacuation of our passengers as soon as we get the necessary clearance from Heathrow,â€ he said.