Maintains a strong presence at 27 airports.
From its two hubs in Lagos and Abuja, the network of flights operated by Arik Air, Nigeria’s leading commercial airline, now extends to a further 18 airports in Nigeria, five in the West Africa region as well as London Heathrow and Johannesburg in South Africa. The airline’s 28 aircraft, among the most modern in the world, take off and land 240 times each day.
Every day Arik Air carries more than 7,000 people guests, and since its launch in October 2006 the airline has carried more than 3 million guests on journeys to visit family and friends, to attend university or to conduct business. The essence of the work of the airline’s Ground Operations team is to ensure the airline’s guests and their baggage move safely and efficiently between airports and Arik Air aircraft. The Ground Operations division is by far the airline’s largest, employing more than 370 staff at 27 locations. The concentration of Ground Operations personnel at Lagos and Abuja, totalling 150 staff, reflects the hub status of both locations on the airline’s network. Unlike other divisions of Arik Air, the Ground Operations team is widely dispersed geographically. Similar to other divisions of the airline, its staffing structure is intended to support its various functions optimally.
Arik Air’s Manager Ground Operations, Mr Stephen Okpara explained:
“From the outset, we wanted to ensure that all our different airport teams were structured to operate efficiently while delivering high levels of service to our guests. To achieve this, we implemented a simple yet effective staffing model across our network. A Station (Airport) Manager leads a team of Passenger Services Agents (PSAs), Baggage Handlers and Cleaners. Because of the considerably higher volume of flight departures and arrivals at our Lagos and Abuja hubs and at Port Harcourt, Duty Managers plan and co-ordinate the work of the PSAs at these three locations. Two Hub Managers have overall responsibility for our Lagos and Abuja operations.”
When the airline started flying in October 2006, Lagos-Abuja was the first route. Arik Air now flies 96 times weekly between the two cities. The introduction of direct flights between Abuja and State capitals has been at the forefront of Arik Air’s domestic expansion strategy. “To help implement this strategy the airline now ensures that three aircraft remain at Abuja each evening, ready to operate the next day’s flights. While Lagos is at the heart of our combined network of domestic, regional and international services, Abuja’s role is growing in importance,” Mr Okpara added. “The airline already operates direct flights from Abuja to 17 destinations in Nigeria.”
As with other areas of its business, Arik Air’s Ground Operations team contracts out specific functions to a preferred supplier, depending on the airport. SAHCOL (Skypower Aviation Handling Company Limited) performs the airline’s ramp handling activities at all its Nigerian airports while Servisair and Menzies meet the airline’s full ground handling requirements at London Heathrow and Johannesburg O.R. Tambo airports respectively.
Arik Air’s Ground Operations team has a better vantage point than most from which to witness the challenges experienced by the airline resulting from the creaking airport infrastructure it inherited in Nigeria. While the airline has grown aggressively, the standard of terminal infrastructure and the number of check-in desks at airports remains largely unchanged. The airline views as inadequate the number of check-in desks available at its second hub, Abuja, from where it wishes to open new services. “The limited number of check-in desks in Abuja has necessitated splitting the airline’s operation between the domestic and international terminals. This has made it increasingly difficult for us to deliver our high level of service,” Mr Okpara stressed. “To help alleviate the congestion in Lagos, Ground Operations was able to open a second guest check-in area adjacent to GAT which we designate ‘Alpha Terminal’. This terminal is used solely for Arik Air domestic services to Benin, Enugu and Jos,” added Mr Okpara.
Despite the difficulties posed by the local airport environment, the Ground Operations team is motivated by the successes it has achieved so far. These have included creating a new Baggage Services Unit to improve services to guests, migrating to an automated check-in system in late 2008 and establishing new operations at three West Coast airports (Banjul, Dakar and Freetown) simultaneously and at Katsina in June 2009. “The Ground Operations team secured NCAA (Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority) approval for its Operations Manuals and we managed to establish our operations at about 25 Airport stations in fewer than three years, achievements we are all justly proud of,” said Mr Okpara.
While Ground Operations teams are focused on servicing Arik Air’s 120 daily flights, the division’s management is also planning, and has recognized the importance of investing in and developing its staff. Mr Okpara explained:
“Lufthansa’s training subsidiary Trainico has been contracted to strengthen and develop the skills of Nigerian Station Managers so that they can provide further training to their local team members. Training modules include Station Management, Passenger and Ramp Handling, Load Control, Dangerous Goods Regulations as well as Security and Safety Awareness. The application of this knowledge will help ensure Ground Operations teams remain at the top of their game. Implementation will ensure Arik Air stays ahead of the competition.”
Arik Air is Nigeria’s leading commercial airline. It operates a fleet of 28 state-of-the art regional, medium haul and long haul aircraft. The airline currently serves 20 airports across Nigeria, as well as Accra (Ghana), Cotonou (Benin), Niamey and Agadez (Niger), Freetown (Sierra Leone), Banjul (Gambia), Dakar (Senegal), London Heathrow (UK) and Johannesburg (South Africa).
The airline currently operates 120 daily flights from its hubs in Lagos and Abuja.
It employs a workforce of more than 1,700.