When something goes wrong on a trip, the first question many flyers ask is, “What are my rights?”
Air travel in Nigeria is regulated by the Civil Aviation Act And the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) which has enacted the Rights and duties of Airline passengers for the protection of the rights of air travelers.
All airlines, both foreign and domestic, are subject to the provisions of the Regulations which prescribes the minimum rights and duties of passengers and the obligations of airlines.
In 2019 alone, there were 41,968 recorded cases of missing and delayed luggage in Nigeria, according to a report by the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA). The same year, the NCAA recorded the operation of 65,401 flights, of which 37,510 ( about 57%) were delayed and 356 were cancelled.
In most of these cases, passengers neither demanded compensation nor were the defaulting airlines gracious enough to offer them.
This article highlights the obligations of airlines in Nigeria and the rights of its passengers. Air travel has become very popular in recent times due to the convenience and not having to sit for countless hours as in road travels. It is very necessary to know the duties owed to you by the Airline.
Common Complaints that air travel customers usually border on issues such as :
• Loss of Baggage in the care of the Airline , Delayed Baggage, Damaged baggage or Pilferage, etc.
• Flight Schedule: Flight Delay, flight Diversion, flight Cancellation, Poor in – flight services, Discrimination in flight etc.
• Denied boarding, Flight Booking, Down-Grading and Ticket Refund.
• Uncomfortable flight experiences or even Discourteous airline personnel/hostess etc. A few weeks ago, a man was refused to board an Airline because he used his left hand to hand over the boarding pass.
* Every passenger has a right to be informed of the reason for a delay within 30 minutes after departure time.
* When the delay lasts for 2 hours, the passenger is entitled to refreshment, and where the delay lasts for 3 hours, the passenger is entitled to a reimbursement.
* A passenger is also entitled to transport and hotel accommodation where delay falls between 10:00 pm and 4:00 am.
- A passenger is entitled to compensation by an airline where there is a cancelled flight, unless the said passenger is informed of the cancellation at least 24 hours before the scheduled departure time.
Passenger placed on lower-class ticket
- Where an airline places a passenger in a class lower than that for which the ticket was purchased, the said passenger is entitled to a reimbursement within 30 days from the date of travel.
- The airline is also required to make an additional payment of 30% and 50% of the price of the ticket for domestic and international flights respectively.
- A passenger is entitled to immediate monetary compensation by the airline in the event of a baggage delay, as well as the carriage of the said delayed baggage on the next available flight.
How to get compensation/punitive orders
If passengers are not granted an audience after foregoing rights are violated or abused, they are expected to either submit complaints to the Customer Affairs Unit of the NCAA or file an action in court to enforce a passenger’s right.
However, it should be noted that such action, under the NCAA, has to be instituted within two years of its occurrence.
Compile your documentation
The passenger would need the ticket or booking number, date of the flight, name of the airline, and if possible the reason given by the airline for the flight delay or cancellation.
This information should be forwarded with a claim letter detailing the passenger’s experience with the airline (flight delayed or cancelled), and the inconvenience it caused.
Contact the airline
Different airlines have different procedures for claims. Some accept complaints via email, while a passenger may need to send a written claims letter to others.
- If the claim for compensation is rejected by the airline, the passenger may either choose to accept the rejection, or make a further complaint to the Consumer Protection Directorate of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA).
- When complaining to the NCAA, the passenger will need to include the details of their initial complaint letter, the rejection letter received from the airline, and a cover letter to the NCAA asking them to review the rejection by the airline.
- If the Consumer Protection Directorate of the NCAA rejects a review, the passenger may refer the matter to the FCPC.
- Provide them with all the information on the complaint so far, and ask them to review the decisions and compel the airline to award you compensation.
- If the CPC fails to uphold your complaint, you may engage a lawyer and decide to take the matter to court.
- Note that the passenger may at any step within the stipulated process decide to go to court.
Despite the NCAA regulations, the conduct of airlines has been unsatisfactory and sometimes questionable, and most passengers are either ignorant of their rights or believe the violation of said rights is not worth the stress of demanding compensation. This may be attributed to poor consumer education.