Air Travellers Must Be Protected


The embarrassing and unfair treatment Nigerian passengers go through at the country’s airports must be jettisoned.

Daily, flights are delayed for several hours, leaving many stranded passengers at terminal buildings fuming.

On 25 May and 27 June, passengers with Air Nigeria were stranded nationwide for at least eight hours when the airline ran out of cash to buy fuel for its aircraft to fly.

The oil marketers refused to collect cheques from the airline, insisting on cash. As the airline scurried to the bank to get cash, many flights were delayed and some were cancelled nationwide.

Invectives were exchanged and a scuffle ensued between the passengers and Air Nigeria officials. After the aggrieved passengers threatened to damage facilities at the airport, security officials were called in to restore order.

Some months ago, passengers with Arik Air engaged in a fist fight with the officials after their flight to London was delayed for many days. They were said to have damaged some facilities at the international airport in Lagos before security operatives restored order.

Daily, Arik Air passengers have to wait for hours at various airports due to flight delays and, sometimes, cancellations.

Other airlines such as Aero Contractors, Dana Airline, IRS or Chanchangi Airline mete the same unwarranted treatment on hapless passengers.

The official reason is always technical fault or bad weather. The real reason is, most times, operational inefficiency.

When flights are delayed for several hours or cancelled, passengers are not compensated. They are often not reimbursed. This is not right.

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Many passengers have missed crucial appointments due to flight delays and cancellations. Many others have been refused employment because they showed up late at the interview session. Many passengers have even had to change their plans because a flight was delayed for hours.

Some passengers even had to spend the night in Lagos, Abuja or Port Harcourt on their bill because a flight is cancelled.

This is against regulations by the International Civil Aviation Organisation, ICAO, which regulates world’s aviation industry.

In spite of flight delays and cancellations, airlines hardly compensate passengers who lose their luggage during a flight. This is unacceptable and must stop.

Last year, the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA, upgraded its Customer Protection Unit, CPU, to a directorate and appointed a director.

The objective of the directorate is to ensure that the rights of passengers are protected and due compensation paid to them when airlines lose their luggage or maltreat them, but the office has remained toothless because it is not backed by any law.

The absence of any legal backing has continued to undermine passengers’ rights and is daily being exploited by airlines which are only interested in profit making.

We call on Nigerian legislators to swiftly enact a law that will protect air travellers against the humiliating treatment by the airlines in the country.