Impromptu Flight Cancellations & Delays: How Much Is Too Much
When we plan for a trip, we always have to decide which means of travel is the fastest. On most occasions, travelling by air proves to be the most conducive and safest option due to its speed, security and comfort.
Unfortunately, air travel in Nigeria is laced with uncertainties and disappointments. It is common to see passengers still waiting at the airport hours after their scheduled time of Departure.
In some scenarios, flights are cancelled without prior notice while passengers are waiting to check-in at the airport.
Most Nigerians who travel by air are now used to incessant flight delays and cancellations and have alternative options in case their flight is cancelled.
Sadly, this has become the norm; after all, in 2017, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) reported that the country recorded 30,214 cases of delayed flights.
On some occasions, passengers have physically assaulted airline’s staff each time flights are delayed or eventually cancelled. As a frequent traveller, I dug deep to find out the reasons for this issue.
They are as follows:
This is a reason which may cause flight delays or cancellations, especially during the harmattan season, which reduces visibility. While this looks like a good reason, technology has provided navigation aids that reduce the impact of poor weather by assisting aircraft and warning them about obstructions to navigation. An airline staff for a local airline hinted that these navigation aids in smaller airports are not as advanced as they should be. Therefore, pilots cannot rely on them in severe weather conditions, and this leads to flight delays.
Lack of adequate infrastructure
Outdated infrastructure, inadequacy or gaps can lead to avoidable delays or cancellations. For instance, a scenario where there are only one scanning machine, one body monitor and a boarding gate will ultimately lead to queues and delays as what ought to have taken minutes to be done or accomplished may take hours or days. The use of digital or electronic devices for check-in would improve this situation.
Aviation fuel is both scarce and expensive in Nigeria. In many cases, trucks have to travel long distances to deliver them to the airport. This can contribute to flight delays if the truck doesn’t get to the airport on time. Besides that, aviation fuel is not regulated by the government, so a lot of times, airlines have to import it.
The vine has it that sometimes flights are deliberately delayed to reduce cost. A lot of times, local plants are empty except during peak periods. Say, for example, an airline has a 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. flight to the same destination, it may delay the 1 p.m. take-off and merge it with the 3 p.m. flight. In doing so, the airline saves money on tax, fuel, and ensures seats are filled.
Once, I noticed that the boarding time for my flight with a local airline had passed, yet there was no announcement for boarding.
Passengers were getting uneasy, and the check-in staff seemed to have no clue as to what was going on. I spoke to a baggage handling staff to know exactly what the issue was and he told me that although my flight is on the tarmac, it would not be flying because the pilots who flew it the previous day complained that the landing gear was faulty and they have refused to fly that aircraft until an engineer works on it.
This was a deliberate delay because the airline was aware of this issue but went ahead to sell tickets to passengers. My flight was eventually cancelled, and I was not surprised.
Sometimes, flight delays are unintentional and are caused by operational difficulties. Airlines outsource certain complimentary services such as catering and cleaning. Any disappointment from the outsourced company may result in flight delays.
Can you claim compensation for a domestic flight delay?
Yes, you can. However, this will depend on the length of the delay and the reason for the delay or cancellation. By virtue of Part 19 of the NCAA Consumer Protection Regulations, passengers on domestic flights are guaranteed certain levels of compensation if their flight is cancelled or delayed.
You can claim from 25% (and above) of the ticket price as compensation based on the length and circumstances around the delay. The rules and procedure for this can be found in the above-mentioned regulation. In conclusion, all domestic airlines will be better off if these impediments are taken care of.