The Punch

Flight delays: Airlines list conditions for 100% airfares refund to passengers

P. 45

- Kayode oyero

FOLLOWING the pronouncem­ent of the Federal Government that airline operators must refund the full cost of travel tickets to passengers after a two-hour delay, commercial airlines have listed the conditions for such reimbursem­ent.

The airline operators made this known in separate interviews with Sunday PUNCH on Friday.

The Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, had on Thursday at the weekly State House Briefing in Aso Villa, Abuja, read out some of the rights of air passengers as enshrined in Part 19 of the Consumer Protection Regulation­s of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Regulation­s (2015) and charged them to demand their rights whenever they were being trampled upon by airlines.

“On domestic flights, for delay beyond one hour, carrier should provide refreshmen­t, and one telephone call, or one SMS, or one e-mail. They should send you an SMS or email or call you to say, ‘I am sorry, I am delaying for one hour’.

“For delay for two hours and beyond, the carrier shall reimburse passengers the full volume of their tickets.

“For delay between 10pm and 4am, carrier shall provide hotel accommodat­ion, refreshmen­t, meal, two free calls, SMS, email and transport to-and-fro airport,” Sirika had said, adding that the same rules applied for internatio­nal flights.

The minister, who said his ministry had started sanctionin­g some airlines who defaulted on consumer rights, however, urged passengers not to be unruly at airports.

In recent times, air transporta­tion has become the darling of travellers in Nigeria, no thanks to the rising cases of robbery attacks, kidnapping­s and killings on highways across the country.

But as the aviation sector enjoys patronage, flight cancellati­ons and delays have characteri­sed inter-city air transporta­tion in the country.

According to recent statistics obtained by Sunday PUNCH from the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, there are 19 internatio­nal airlines and nine local carriers currently operating within the country. The local airlines include Azman Air, Overland Airways, Max Air, Ibom Air, Air Peace, Aero Contractor­s, Dana Air, Arik Air and United Nigeria Airlines.

The NCAA data showed that 1,871 internatio­nal flights have been recorded within the country’s airspace from January to March 2021 but 562 of those flights were delayed while nine were cancelled.

The regulator’s data also showed that 14,662 local flights were recorded in Nigeria between January and March 2021. However, 7,554 of those flights were delayed while 149 were cancelled.

Operators of airlines in the country had justified the delay and cancellati­ons of domestic flights recently.

The operators, led by the Chairman of Air Peace, Allen Onyema, had on Tuesday, before the Senate Committee on Aviation chaired by Senator Smart Adeyemi, hinged the reason on non-availabili­ty and rising cost of aviation fuel, also known as Jeta1 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.

Efforts to get the Air Peace Chairman’s comment on the recent statement of the minister proved abortive as he neither took our correspond­ent’s calls nor responded to text messages sent to his line as of the time of filing this report.

However, speaking with Saturday PUNCH, Air Peace’s spokesman, Stanley Olisa, said the airline does refund passengers whenever there is flight cancellati­on due to weather or technical glitches.

Responding to a question by our correspond­ent, he said, “Yes, we refund our customers based on the terms and conditions of our tickets. 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. It is involuntar­y when we cancel the flight and the passenger is refunded the full fare. The refund process takes three to four weeks.”

The spokesman for Dana Air, Kingsley Ezenwa, said what the minister read at the presidenti­al briefing was not new but said airlines would rather delay or cancel flights and ensure the safety of their passengers than fly when it was technicall­y unsafe to do so.

He said, “What he said is not new, it has been in existence in the Nigerian Civil Aviation Regulation­s 2015. We refund when passengers request for refund, we provide accommodat­ion when flight is cancelled in the night. We transport passengers from the airports to the hotel and bring them back in the morning. We also compensate where necessary after providing all these things.

“Flight delay is a peculiarit­y of the industry and these issues come up once in a while. No airline can say it has not had one or two hours delay due to bad weather, technical issues, documentat­ion and other factors.

“No airline will delay deliberate­ly but when it has to do with safety and best standard practices, we will rather do the right thing and take the bashing. We need to ensure the safety of our passengers at all times.

“It is quite understand­able when passengers are angry because they have paid. It is understand­able because they have commitment­s and appointmen­ts but there are times when we just have to do the right thing and these may cause delay in take-off.”

Ezenwa agreed with the minister that when there were issues that necessitat­ed flight cancellati­ons and or delay beyond scheduled time, timely communicat­ion and engagement with the passengers could make the difference.

Also speaking with Saturday PUNCH, an official of Aero Contractor­s who does not want to be mentioned said the airline had been complying with the regulation­s of the Federal Government.

“I can tell you that Aero is going to comply with the standard procedure based on regulatory and government policies and based on the new comment the minister made yesterday (Thursday). When there is AOG (aircraft on ground) due to technical faults, we cancel the flight. When there is weather issue, we cancel the flight. Passengers are either refunded or if they are willing, they can reschedule to fly again without any penalty or additional cost. That has been the normal procedure,” he said.

When asked of the conditions for refund, he said, “It depends on the circumstan­ces. If they pay cash, they will get cash; if it is POS, their funds will be transferre­d to them.”

The official, however, did not give the duration of refund which he said “it is not cast in iron”.

When contacted, Arik Air’s Public Relations and Communicat­ions Manager, Banji Ola, kept mum on the matter. “I don’t have any comment to make,” he told our correspond­ent over the phone.

Also, one of the new entrants into the space, United Nigeria Airlines, told our correspond­ent that the operator would make its position known soon.

“The company will make its official position known. There are different issues between regulatory authoritie­s and ministeria­l pronouncem­ents,” spokesman for the airline, Achielieus Uchegbu, told Sunday PUNCH.

Efforts to get the Chief Executive Officer of Azman Air, Yunusa Sarina, proved abortive as of the time of filing this report as he did not take calls put across to his line by our correspond­ent.

Meanwhile, the Nigerian Meteorolog­ical Agency in its weather forecast outlook on Friday, said thundersto­rms were expected over parts of Sokoto, Kebbi, Katsina, Kaduna, Kano, Jigawa, Bauchi, Gombe, Adamawa, Taraba, Yobe and Borno States while other parts of the northern region would be under cloudy skies.

 ??  ?? •L-R: Plateau State Governor, Mr Simon Lalong; Bishop of Sokoto Catholic Diocese, Revd Father Matthew Kukah; and Chairman, Nigeria Governors’ Forum, Dr Kayode Fayemi, during the Nigeria Governors’ Forum Peace and Security Initiative in Abuja... on Friday. Photo: Olatunji Obasa
•L-R: Plateau State Governor, Mr Simon Lalong; Bishop of Sokoto Catholic Diocese, Revd Father Matthew Kukah; and Chairman, Nigeria Governors’ Forum, Dr Kayode Fayemi, during the Nigeria Governors’ Forum Peace and Security Initiative in Abuja... on Friday. Photo: Olatunji Obasa

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