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FG, air passengers and Passengers’ Bill of Rights

THE sweeping reform in the aviation sector is indeed changing the perception of the people about government. In a conversation I had with a group of people travelling through the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, last week, I can say that the Aviation Ministry has become a signpost for measuring the performance of President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration.

As we got down to discussion about the state of the nation, the aviation sector continued to pop-up as a good example.

We had several arguments and agreements about the work of each of the ministries and agencies and how that is affecting the lives of the people positively. And as we couldn’t move away from the Aviation sector, we began to dissect the work being done and its importance for the future of Nigeria.

We all agreed that the leadership of the Aviation Ministry is committed to a genuine reform and passionate about it. Perhaps the array of men and women leading the agencies under the Aviation Ministry gives a strong statement about the Ministry’s commitment to a genuine reform.

One of such agencies is the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA, under the leadership of Captain Folayele Akinkuotu. An agency like NCAA is a very critical part of the Aviation Ministry and that makes it a centre point in aviation regulation in the country and elsewhere in the world where a similar agency operates.

Though Akinkuotu assumed the leadership of NCAA not too long ago, the fact that he has been around in the sector helped him to hit the ground running. He indeed knows what to do and where to touch to bring human face into the aviation reform. He knows how painful it can be for passengers when they are cheated by the airlines and no one is responding to them.

He’s aware that the problem has been there for decades and that Nigerians have resigned to fate about it. At the airports, passengers dare not be sure of when they will arrive at their destinations. Circumstances have forced many to make provisions for disappointments, which have practically become the rule rather than the exception. Many passengers leave the airports dejected on a daily basis because they arrive with their luggage left behind.

The Consumer Protection Unit of the agency, NCAA, he leads receives no less than 50,000 complaints from passengers badly treated by local and international airlines. The complaints relate to lost baggage, poor in-flight service, flight delays and cancellations, amongst others.

So when he was appointed he called for the Passengers’ Bill of Rights. He looked into it and pronto moved to work for its full-scale implementation.

And  though the full enforcement of the Passengers’ Bill of Rights will begin this week, it has started to yield fruits because authorities have been taking proactive steps ahead of time to help Nigerians get justice.

For instance, some passengers were denied boarding due O/S on FLT BA082/14 JUL ABV-LHR and denied boarding compensation was issued at GBP250 to each of the nine passengers. They are: Atsiangba H, Apollo A, Apollo J, Apollo D, Esinkuma F, Disu M, Egole A, Okogwu C,  and Odeka C.

Also a passenger by name Salihu Abdul Buba who flew on Ethiopian Airline in February 2012 was refunded the sum of N126,106 which he paid for oxygen that was not utilized and the airline was not willing to refund till the intervention of the Consumer Protection Department of the NCAA.    He was paid on June 29, 2013, according to reports.

So as a result of the inconveniences to passengers occasioned by flight delay, the new NCAA Bill of Rights provides that whenever an airline anticipates a delay of its flight beyond its scheduled time, passengers are entitled to some reliefs. For delay beyond one hour, the airline must provide refreshment, telephone call, SMS or e-mail to the passengers. In case of a delay for two hours and beyond, the carrier must reimburse passengers the full value of their tickets.

In instances where the delay occurs  between 10pm and 4am, the airline henceforth must provide hotel accommodation, refreshment, meal, two free calls, sms, e-mail and transport to and from the airport.

International passengers with delayed flights for between two and four hours are entitled to refreshment and two telephone calls, sms or e-mail. Delay of four hours or more makes an airline liable to provide the passengers with a meal, two telephone calls, sms or e-mail.

For delays at least six hours after the time of original departure, each passenger is entitled to hotel accommodation and transportation between the airport and place of accommodation.

The measure is aimed at checking rights violations by domestic and foreign carriers and already domestic carriers are jittery over the implementation of the new aviation law that is expected to checkmate gross violation of passengers’ rights that has been on over the years.

Now,   for boarding priority, every airline is mandated to establish priority procedures and criteria for determining which passengers holding confirmed ticket shall be denied boarding on the over-booked flight if insufficient numbers of volunteers come forward. If denied boarding involuntarily, the operating airline shall immediately compensate the passengers and offer assistance stipulated in the bill.

There is so much in this bill that now makes air travellers the king in Nigeria and that make it important for everyone to become familiar with the Passengers’ Bill of Rights.

Mr. YAKUBU  DATI is Coordinating General Manager, Information&Communication of Aviation Parastatals.


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