NCAA plans public sensitisation about Bill of Rights soon to further enlighten air travelers

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Traveling by air or using air transport services confers certain rights on passengers. But it also comes with some responsibilities. Among the major ones are the right to the full value for your money; the right to compensation for flight cancellation, delays, damaged/loss baggage and denied boarding for reasons other than technical, weather conditions, air traffic control restrictions, security risks and industrial disputes that affect the operation of the flight; the right to book and confirm tickets with an airline of your choice.Airport

Others are the right to the provision of conducive airport environment before, during and after flights; the right to seek redress for all irregularities during your flight and the right to timely feedback, in respect of matters/complaints lodged with service providers.

The airline passengers also have the right to be fully informed about flight status and the right to be treated with respect and dignity, irrespective of race or physical condition.

Sadly some air passengers in Nigeria do not know that they are accorded these rights and they are therefore, frustrated whenever there are flight disruptions.

For instance, Mr John Ibe bought a two-way flight ticket from Lagos to Kano to travel 30th May, 2021. In the evening of his departure, he was informed that the flight has been cancelled.

Going back to the airport in the morning of the day of his travel to enquire if the flight has been rescheduled, Ibe was shocked that no aircraft was heading to that route. Consequently, he missed the important meeting in Kano.

Nothing was done about his case and he was refunded the money he paid for air ticket one month later, after he had wasted his time and equally missed his engagement.

Ibe is not alone in such situations. Many Nigerians have lost their jobs, valuables and appointments through such failure on the part of some airlines to meet up their obligations.

To address such a situation, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has said that it will commence public sensitisation soon to further enlighten air travelers, in the case of flight delays or cancellations.

The agency also said that the law on 100 per cent refund on air tickets, in case of three-hour delays, is not novel to the Nigerian Civil Aviation Regulation (NCAR), stressing that it was gazetted by the Federal Government and has been in existence since 2015.

Capt. Musa Nuhu, the Director-General of NCAA, in an interview with aviation journalists in Lagos over the weekend, said the agency would in the coming weeks commence an information drive to passengers, maintaining that this would enable them to respond appropriately in case their rights are trampled upon by airlines.

According to him, before the 2015 amendment to the extant regulations, airlines were supposed to pay 100 per cent compensation to passengers after two hours of delay, but the regulatory agency amended it to three hours in order to accommodate the complaints of the indigenous airlines and in a bid to ensure fair play for all.

Nuhu insisted that whatever the Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, the said on compensation, recently was not new, stressing that the minister was not reinventing the wheel.

He, however, clarified that in case of a natural phenomenon, the airlines would not be sanctioned by the agency, describing it as a force majeure.

He stated that airlines were given Air Operators’ Certificates (AOCs) based on the fact that they would comply with civil aviation regulations, maintaining that once any of the carriers is found wanting, the agency would not hesitate to sanction such an airline accordingly.

But, Nuhu regretted that most passengers failed to report to the regulatory agency whenever their rights were trampled upon, pointing out that soon NCAA would commence a campaign to educate the travelling public on their rights and the available report channels.

He said, “The minister was just referring to NCAA in his statement. Before the amendment to the regulation, airlines were supposed to pay full compensation to air travellers the moment their flight is delayed for two hours, but during the review, the operators complained that the two hours was too short. Then, it was extended to three hours.

“We will implement the new law to the letter, but if the consumers don’t complain, how can we know? We need to educate the passengers about their rights. All airlines were given AOCs based on the fact that they will comply with the regulations. During our surveillance, if we find out that they don’t comply appropriately, we will sanction.

“But, on the issue of force majeure, you can’t sanction them. It is an act of nature. Even the law recognises this.”

The NCAR 2015 Section 19.6.1.1, as amended, indicates that for domestic flights, when an operating air carrier reasonably expects a flight to be delayed beyond its scheduled time of departure, it will provide the passengers with a reason(s) for the delay within 30 minutes after the scheduled departure time.

It states that after two hours, refreshments as specified in section 19.10.1 (i) and telephone calls, SMS and e-mails as specified in section 19.10.2; while beyond three hours, reimbursement as specified in Section 19.9.1(i) ; and (iii) at a time beyond 10pm till 4am, or at a time when the airport was closed at the point of departure or final destination, the assistance specified in sections 19.10.1 (iii) and 19.10.1(iv) (hotel accommodation and transport).

For international flights, the regulation says that when an operating air carrier reasonably expects a flight to be delayed beyond its scheduled time of departure, it would provide to the passengers between two and four hours, compensation as specified in sections 19.8.1 (i) and telephone calls, SMS, e-mails as specified in 19.10.2.

Besides, it says for a flight that is delayed for more than four hours, meal, as specified in 19.10.1 (ii) and telephone calls, SMS, e-mails as specified in 19.10.2; and (iii) when the reasonably expected time of departure is, at least six hours, after the time of departure previously announced, the hotel accommodation assistance as specified in sections 19.10.1 (iii) and transport assistance as specified in 19.10.1(iv).

On compensation, the regulation said passengers would receive at least 25 per cent of the fares or passenger ticket price for all flights within Nigeria and 30 per cent of the passenger ticket price for all international flights.

Compensation For Domestic Airline Flight delay

Generally, the right of a passenger to compensation for a flight delay will depend on the length of the delay and the reason for the delay/cancellation.

Under the Nigerian law, by virtue of Part 19 of the NCAA Consumer Protection Regulations, passengers on Domestic flights are guaranteed certain levels of compensation if they are denied boarding or their flight is delayed, or their flight is cancelled.

You can claim from 25 per cent of the ticket price as compensation, based on the length of your flight delay and the circumstances around the delay.

However, there are certain rules that guide the process. First, it must be for a flight departing and landing within the domestic territory of Nigeria. Again, passenger must have a confirmed reservation on the flight that is delayed. In addition, the passenger must have presented himself for check in at the stipulated time, and if no time stipulated, then not later than 1 hour prior to flight departure time.

Airlines Obligations

Despite the increase in number of delays and flight cancellations in recent times, domestic airline operators in the country had justified the delay and cancellations of domestic flights.

The operators, led by the Chairman of Air Peace, Allen Onyema, had before the Senate Committee on Aviation chaired by Senator Smart Adeyemi, listed the reason for flight disruptions on non-availability and rising cost of aviation fuel and inadequate parking spaces at airports.

Other reasons cited by the operators were non-availability of forex for spare parts and maintenance, sudden change of weather, delay due to VIP movement, inefficient passenger access and facilitation, delayed clearance of spare parts from Customs and inadequate screening and exit points at departure.

THEWILL gathered that, in most cases, airlines do not refund passengers whenever there is flight cancellation due to bad weather or technical glitches.

It was also gathered that two forms of refund exist: refund can be voluntary, where the customer is refunded 75 per cent of the fare and this occurs when they no longer wish to fly on the service paid for. On the other hand, refunds could come be involuntary when it was the airline that cancelled the flight and the passenger is refunded the full fare, which takes less than one month, depending on the airline.


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