I was one of those who were disappointed and even angry when the Asset Management Company of Nigeria (AMCON) took over the management of Arik Air in February, 2017.
However, shortly after the takeover, I began to read favorable reviews and stories about Arik Air and their services and I thought I would give them another chance. So, with a good dose of reluctance, I bought Arik Air’s ticket for an Enugu-Lagos flight.
DATE: 23 July, 2017
SCHEDULED DEPARTURE: 12:25
ACTUAL DEPARTURE: 12:35
EQUIPMENT: Bombardier CRJ-900
CHECK-IN AND BOARDING
24 hours before the flight, I had attempted to check in online on the airline’s website but I wasn’t successful. I later was told that I couldn’t check in online because the advertised aircraft wasn’t the aircraft that was to operate the flight.
I arrived the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu at about 11:30am for the 12:25 pm flight. Check-in was very swift and quick. Interestingly, I met the same set of staff who attended to me a year ago when I swore never to fly Arik Air again; we shared one or two jokes about the old Arik and the new Arik.
Boarding started on schedule at about 11:55am. It was pretty quick and smooth. We should have pushed back a lot earlier except for some paper work. It appeared the check-in crew had mistakenly assigned two passengers to the same seat number, and once that was sorted out, we pushed back at about 12:30pm.
THE AIRCRAFT AND THE SEAT
Following the takeover by AMCON, Arik Air scaled down operations and began to deploy smaller aircraft on many of their routes including the Lagos-Enugu rotation. I had hoped I would fly on one of its smaller aircraft. So, when at the point of booking the flight, the aircraft was advertised as a Boeing 737-700NG, I was a bit disappointed because I had wanted to fly on the Bombardier CRJ. It was a pleasant surprise therefore, when during check-in, I was told the aircraft was a Bombardier CRJ-900.
The Ride: Bombardier CRJ-900 aircraft with registration number 5N-JEB, nicknamed Patrick.
Arik Air’s Bombardier CRJ-900 is configured to carry a total of 74 passengers across two classes. This was my very first flight on any Bombardier aircraft. My seat was 18A (window seat) in the economy cabin. Window seats are my favorite seats on any aircraft because they give me the opportunity to observe the aircraft’s aerodynamics – the wings, the flaps, the aeroleons, the spoilers and the engines (depending on the aircraft).
I didn’t get to measure the seat width and the seat pitch, but both the seat width and the leg room were very generous. In fact, the seat remains the widest economy class seat I have ever sat on any flight, both domestic and international. The economy class cabin of the CRJ very much feels like a business class cabin.
Another very interesting thing about the Bombardier CRJ is that due to the position of the engines, there is significantly reduced cabin noise making it quieter than most other aircraft.
THE FLIGHT AND THE CREW
After a few minutes of taxing to the runway, flight W3611 took off at about 12:35pm following a beautiful takeoff roll, departing towards north east and then headed to Lagos. We cruised at an altitude of 27,000ft; the flight was generally uneventful and remains one of the smoothest I have ever had.
The best part of the flight was that the captain of the flight was one of Arik’s newest Captains who had just been elevated to the rank of a captain a couple of weeks earlier. The flight crew was led by Captain Olawale Olajide, assisted by Senior First Officer Lanre Thomas. The captain's briefing was like a lady's underwear - long enough to cover the subject matter and short enough to be interesting. The cockpit crew was extremely friendly and professional both on ground and throughout the flight.
These days, there are no proper onboard meal services on Nigerian domestic flights and passengers don’t get offered tea or coffee any more. Pioneered and made popular by Aerocontractors Airline, Nigerian airlines now distribute what I call Snack Packs to passengers, and that was what we got on this Arik Air’s flight.
I particularly loved the Arik Air’s snack pack because of the packaging and the branding which was visually appealing.
The snack pack on this flight contained 180mls of fruit juice, a piece of snack, biscuit and a candy.
Following a 50-minute flight, we touched down at Murtala Muhammed Airport Lagos on schedule at 1:25pm and taxied to the General Aviation Terminal (GAT). The landing was as smooth as silk. I waited till every other passenger had disembarked so I would have time to chat with the crew and the wait was worth it. The cockpit crew was very friendly and warm.
THE AIRCRAFT: 90%
THE CREW: 95%
THE FLIGHT: 95%
THE SEAT: 95%
ONBOARD REFRESHMENT: 70%
VERDICT: In many ways, this flight was a lot different from EVERY Arik Air flight I had taken in the past. Check-in, boarding, departure and arrival were totally on schedule. The ground crew was helpful and responsive, while the flight crew was very friendly and professional. I took this Arik Air’s flight almost against my will but it turned out to be one of the best domestic flights I have ever had. I will totally fly Arik Air again.
ARIK AIR CONTACT:
Chidozie Uzoezie is an aviation enthusiast, a frequent flyer, a freelance writer and a travel blogger. He is the editor and the publisher of The Afritraveller. He blogs and writes mostly about aviation, air travel and airlines' products and services, especially with respect to passenger experience (#PaxEx). He is also the creator and the admin of the African Aviation Group on Facebook. Follow The Afritraveller on Twitter and on Instagram.