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Local airlines kick as FG orders full refund for three-hour delay

By Wole Oyebade
12 July 2021   |   4:22 am
Local airlines have faulted Federal Government’s order to them to refund tickets of travellers that experienced flight delays of at least three hours.

Hadi Sirika

• Rule not new, gazetted since 2015, NCAA insists
Local airlines have faulted Federal Government’s order to them to refund tickets of travellers that experienced flight delays of at least three hours.

While regretting the inconveniences and cancellations, they maintained that the government’s intervention failed to consider natural factors that often pose challenges.

This is even as the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) clarified that the rule dates back to 2015 and applies to flights delayed by minimum of three hours.

Apparently disturbed by the flood of complaints from local travellers, Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, said consumers have a right to 100 per cent refund for flights delayed beyond two hours.

Delays between 10pm and 4am, according to him, would mean that the carrier should provide hotel accommodation, refreshment, meal, two free calls, SMS, email and transport to and fro airport.

Indeed, flight delays and disruption in services worsened last week, with at least two in every three flights held back. A trending video at the weekend showed a number of travellers protesting at the airside and banging on an Aero Contractors’ airplane when they were allegedly forcefully shut out by the crew. It was gathered that the flight was delayed and ended up overbooked.

A top operator confided in The Guardian that the directive would not solve the problem, but instead, cause more chaos in the industry. He said flight delays are more often than not caused by factors beyond the airlines.

His words: “I agree with you that on-time departure has massively reduced. However, we must all remember that we are in the rainy season where the weather changes more often and safety rules forbid airlines from taking risks. So, who pays (for) that? When flights are delayed because of air movement and emergencies, is it also the fault of the airline?

“As the regulator, I cannot question them if I want to remain in business. But let them know that by calling for a blanket refund of fares, they have further emboldened unruly passengers to attack airline officials.”

NCAA’s Director General, Captain Musa Nuhu, restated that there was nothing new about the order, stating that the rule was gazetted by the Federal Government in 2015.

He said before the 2015 amendment to the Nigerian Civil Aviation Regulations, airlines were paying 100 per cent compensation to passengers after a two-hour delay, but the regulatory agency only reviewed the duration to three hours to accommodate complaints of indigenous airlines in the spirit of fair play for all.

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

Nuhu added 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 wield the big stick.

The DG regretted that most passengers don’t report to the regulatory agency whenever their rights are trampled upon.He said the NCAA would soon commence a campaign to educate the travelling public on their rights and the available challenges to lodge such infractions.

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

Meanwhile, the duo of Ibom Air and Aero Contractors have apologised for flight delays recorded at the weekend. Ibom’s Abuja-Lagos flight was delayed, while Aero Contractors had the chaotic session at Asaba.