by Paul Osas
For too long, Nigerian air travellers have been subjected to unprofessional and sometimes demeaning treatment in the hands of airline operators, ranging from unexplained flight delays, flight cancellations, loss of luggage, starvation to mention a few. A lot of these ills which are not permissible in most parts of the world are actually not permissible in Nigeria as well, but the fact that they persist is attributed to passengers’ ignorance of their rights.
An end may have finally come as Director General, Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA, Captain Fola Akinkuotu, is on a sensitisation spree, revealing some rights which you probably did not know you possessed as an air traveller.
Akinkuotu, who addressed journalists in Lagos, said the law protecting air travellers in the country, had always existed but was not implemented.
“The fact that the law is not implemented does not mean it’s not there. The law has always been there. We are on an enlightenment campaign,” he said.
1. On flight delays, he said that:
“Firstly, on local flights passengers have the right to demand for reimbursement after a two-hour flight delay, you also have the right to free snacks, two phone calls or two emails after just an hour delay on a domestic route. If you are delayed between 10p.m. and 4a.m. or at anytime when the airport point of departure or arrival is closed, you also have the right to a hotel accommodation and transportation,” he said.
2. Secondly, on international flights, passengers who are delayed between two and four hours have the right to receive free refreshments and facilities for two free telephone calls, two SMS or two emails, passengers who are delayed beyond four hours on international flights have the right to a free meal and communication facilities.
Airlines that delay international passengers for up to six hours, he added, must accommodate them and transport them from the airport to the hotel and from the hotel to the airport.
He said, “The passengers’ bill of rights essentially is common sense. You are travelling, your flight is delayed, don’t you think you have the right to be informed?” Akinkuotu queried. “You don’t just wake up and say you want to go to Abuja. You plan to go to Abuja. You plan for the time to go to Abuja, you plan for the time to arrive there. If the flight is delayed, you have the right to know. You have the right not to be left there in the cold.”
3. On flight cancellations, the DG NCAA said your rights are:
“On domestic or international routes, passengers have the right to refreshments, meals, hotel accommodation and transportation between hotel and airport. You also have the right to compensation, immediate reimbursement of full ticket cost or rerouted at the cost of the operator airline.”
4. For upgrading a ticket to higher ticket without a request from the passenger, the traveller has the right not to be required to pay any extra fare.
5. For downgrading a ticket to a lower cabin class, the passenger has the right to reimbursement of 30 percent of full ticket price for domestic flights and 60 percent of full ticket price for international flights.
He however said that passengers’ rights do not cover those who are travelling on free tickets.
Akinkuotu urged passengers whose rights have been breached to first direct their complaints to the airlines, subsequently to NCAA offices at various terminal buildings across the country. He promised more NCAA visibility at the airports.