The Nation (Nigeria)

Enough is enough

We elcome Fed. Go ern arning o airline on pa enger righ

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AIR passengers in Nigeria might henceforth get some reprieve from airlines in the country, both domestical­ly and internatio­nally. Even though the 100% refund law to passengers in the event of delays or cancellati­ons is not new as it was gazetted in 2015, passengers have been groaning under the tacky treatments by the airlines.

The Federal Government’s stern warning to airlines over the ceaseless flight delays and cancellati­ons that have totally been frustratin­g to air passengers who are often not properly compensate­d or treated in line with internatio­nal aviation best practices is welcome. Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, announced that henceforth, operators in the airline industry must refund the full cost of travel tickets to passengers after a two-hour delay. He also reminded passengers to demand for their rights.

Beyond the refund on domestic flights, airlines must provide refreshmen­t, one telephone call or one SMS or one e-mail for any delay beyond one hour. The airline is equally mandated to send passengers an email or SMS to apologise for an hour delay. For any delay beyond two hours, airlines must reimburse passengers the full volume of their tickets. Delays between 10pm and 4am, carriers shall provide hotel accommodat­ion, refreshmen­t, meal, two free calls, SMS, e-mail and transport to-and-from airports. Internatio­nal flights are equally bound by these.

We commend the aviation minister for reminding passengers of their rights and for the report that the ministry had started sanctionin­g defaulting airlines. There are global internatio­nal aviation standards that do not exclude operators in Nigeria. Given that airlines operating in the country are members of the Internatio­nal Air Transport Associatio­n (IATA), the global aviation body, it is the job of government ministries and agencies to ensure compliance with the passenger rights that have been endorsed by the Internatio­nal Civil Aviation Organizati­on (ICAO).

We believe that these stern warnings to airlines and a reminder to passengers of their rights are appropriat­e even if late in coming, given the history of aviation in Nigeria. It has been very frustratin­g for Nigerian air passengers in the last few years as airlines delay and cancel flights for many hours and in some cases without any measure of restitutio­n, refunds or apologies. Most of the airlines have been operating as though there are no laws guiding their operations.

The major reason most passengers choose air transporta­tion is for its avowed safety and the need to save travel time by other means of transporta­tion like road and rail. Most passengers travel for very timebound programmes like healthcare, business, exams or just any other issues that have specific timelines. When their time calculatio­ns are disrupted by delays and cancellati­ons, most of which are not due to natural issues like weather and other issues that man cannot help, it is just appropriat­e that they are compensate­d and apologised to when mere apologies can suffice.

The airlines in Nigeria have in a way taken advantage of the poor supervisor­y duties of the agencies and ministries to treat passengers with utter disregard and disrespect. There have been various incidents at airports as disappoint­ed passengers feeling much neglected take to physical confrontat­ions with some staff or engage in very chaotic behaviour out of sheer frustratio­n. These scenes negate the rules and the required ambience airports around the world are expected to maintain. This in very grave ways present the country in very negative light to visitors and tense up passengers.

On the other hand, passengers must begin to take their own convenienc­e and rights more seriously by taking time to read the notices on their tickets and on notice boards at airports. In most cases, the national aviation agencies like the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) have complaint desks that passengers can go to in the event of any flight disruption or other inconvenie­nces they might suffer due to the fault of the operating airlines. Passengers should avail themselves of this opportunit­y.

The situation in the aviation industry as it concerns passenger rights is replicated in other sectors due to the laxity of most supervisor­y agencies and ministries. A working system is often an unbroken chain of efficiency of all involved. Nigerians are one of the most widely travelled in the world and must enjoy all the rights due them in the aviation industry as elsewhere. Passengers are the soul of businesses.

‘These stern warnings to airlines and a reminder to passengers of their rights are appropriat­e even if late in coming, given the history of aviation in Nigeria’

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