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Air travellers decry abuse of consumers’ rights

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LagosAirportCITING aloofness, some air travellers have accused airlines of not complying with the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) regulatory provisions on consumer protection and urged the agency to enforce consumers’ rights.

The complainants told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in separate interviews in Abuja yesterday that they had experienced flight delays and cancellations at different times without cogent explanations from the airlines.

They also alleged that contrary to the NCAA regulation on consumer protection, the airlines never compensated them for the delays, cancellations and other forms of consumer rights abuse.

Mr Abdullahi Jimoh, a lawyer and regular air traveller, said that some airlines often cited technical reasons without evidence, while others would neither give reasons nor apologise.

“Each time there is a delay or cancellation, some of the airlines will come up with one flimsy excuse or the other, while others simply snob their stranded passengers.

“I’ve experienced delays and cancellations more than 15 times in the last six months, and in all, no compensation has been paid as provided by relevant NCAA regulations.

“This has been the situation in this country. Airlines don’t care about passengers’ rights; all that matters to them is money.

“It is unfortunate that laws are made in Nigeria but enforcement has always been a problem,’’ he said.

Jimoh called on the NCAA to enforce its regulation on consumers’ rights, especially in the area of sanctioning erring airlines.

Similarly, Mrs Esther Magayaki, a businesswoman, added that she had experienced flight delays and cancellations on many occasions but had never been compensated by the airlines concerned.

Magayaki said there was a time her flight was delayed for more than six hours without any explanation while she was travelling to Kano from Abuja on one of the popular airlines.

“Sometimes they tell you that the flight was over-booked and then ask you to wait for the next flight; can you just imagine,’’ she said.

Another businessman, Mr John Atuche, expressed displeasure over the “flagrant violation of passengers’ rights’’ in the country, adding that relevant authorities were not doing enough to ensure compliance.

He, however, urged NCAA to be proactive in dealing with erring airlines and save passengers the agony of delayed or cancelled flights.

“If the authorities were working, most of these airlines would not be behaving the way they do because they feel they are untouchable, that is why they don’t respect the rules,’’ Atuche said.

Efforts by NAN to obtain NCAA’s reaction to the complaints were unsuccessful as email enquiry and text messages sent to its Public Affairs Department were not responded to.

The NCAA’s regulation of 2012, Volume 2, provides for rights and obligations of passengers as well as the airlines’ obligation to passengers.
The regulation provides that passengers have right to compensation for flight cancellations, delays, damaged/lost baggage and denied boarding for reasons other than weather conditions, air traffic control restrictions and other operational factors.

It also provides that passengers have the right to book and confirm tickets with an airline of their choice as well as the right to timely feedback in respect of matters/complaints.

The regulation further provides that any passenger denied boarding involuntarily shall be entitled to at least 25 per cent of ticket price for domestic flight and 30 per cent for international flight.

“Immediate compensation if denied boarding involuntarily includes refreshment, meal, hotel accommodation, two phone calls, SMS or email, transport between the airport and the hotel and re-booking by the airline.

“Airlines can cancel flights provided passengers are informed 24 hours before scheduled departure time for domestic flights and seven days before scheduled departure time for international flights.

Meanwhile, National President of National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies, Mr Aminu Agoha, yesterday emphasised the necessity for a national airline for the country.

Agoha told the NAN in Lagos that the glory of the country’s defunct national carrier should be revived in order to reform the aviation industry.
According to him, revival of the carrier must include the concept of joint ownership by government and corporate bodies and for the business to be run as a public-private enterprise.

He stressed that involvement of the private sector in the ownership and operation of the airline would allow for its smooth operation and sustainability.

“Nigeria is a developing country which needs a national carrier for its growth. The national carrier will also develop and enhance the tourist industry in the country.

“The Federal Government should, as a matter of urgency, put up a public-private partnership business to run a national carrier.

“It will promote the country’s aviation industry and ensure easy accessibility of the country by foreigners.

“A lot of packages, including touring round the country, were enjoyed by Nigerians when the national carrier was in
operation.

“I can remember back then as a student, I enjoyed the student fare to London during summer; it enabled you to pay lower rates,’’ Agoha said.


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