LAST week Nigerianflightdeck.com dealt with Passengers’ Obligation and things to know about air travel and this generated some reactions especially from passengers that feel that they have been wronged one way or another by airlines, particularly here in Nigeria and this led to the decision to balance the scales by also exposing the airline’s obligations to the passenger especially where there are infractions.Many a time there have been a lot of challenges at the nations airports owing to flight cancellations and delays and most times there is a ruckus, it is because airlines shy away from their responsibility to do what is needed or give adequate information to already frenzied passengers and when this degenerates you get the kinds of headlines that is neither good for the country or the airline.
Agreed, there are various reasons why an airline can cancel or delay a flight and to be honest once that reason bothers on safety of the flight and the passengers onboard, it is a no-brainer that the airline management has done what is right however, these actions need to be communicated at the airport, via public address or to passengers direct via mails and text messages.
Most times the situation gets pout of hand because there is lack of information and other times, it gets out of hand because the airlines hide behind these technical reasons to unilaterally delay or cancel these flights.
Nigerianflightdeck.com has decided to bring to the notice of passengers some Nigeria Civil Aviation Regulations (NCARs) Part 19: Consumer Protection Regulation which deals extensively with Passengers’ Rights and Responsibilities and Airlines’ Obligations to Passenger while addressing issues of consumer protection especially for compensation for denied boarding, delays and cancellations of flights.
We shall be looking at and discussing what the regulations say about certain infractions and what kind of action or compensation a passenger can get. However, note that these are not automatic on making complaints as these complaints go through investigative process and may take time.
Part 19.6. deals with delay. Now according to the NCARs, for domestic flights, when an operating air carrier reasonably expects a flight to be delayed beyond its scheduled time of departure, it shall provide the passengers with reason(s) for the delay within 30 minutes after the scheduled departure time and the assistance specified below:
(i) after two hours, refreshments as specified in section 19.10.1(i) where reference to care is made in this section, passengers shall be offered free of charge: (i) refreshments such as water, soft drinks, confectioneries / snacks; (ii) a meal; (iii) hotel accommodation; (iv) transport between the airport and place of accommodation (hotel or other accommodation).
Passengers shall be offered free telephone calls, SMS and E-mails as specified in section 19.10.2; (ii) Beyond three (3) hours, Reimbursement as specified in Section 19.9.1(i); and (iii) at a time beyond 10pm till 4am, or at a time when the airport is closed at the point of departure or final destination, the assistance specified in sections 19.10.1(iii)and 19.10.1(iv) (hotel accommodation and transport)
FOR INTERNATIONAL FLIGHTS
For international flights as highlighted in 22.214.171.124., when an operating air carrier reasonably expects a flight to be delayed beyond its scheduled time of departure, it shall provide to the passengers the assistance specified below: (i) between two and four hours, compensation as specified in sections 19.8.1(i) Where reference to compensation is made in this section, passengers shall receive at least (i) 25% of the fares or passenger ticket price for all flights within Nigeria (ii) 30% of the passenger ticket price for all international flights.
The passenger shall also receive Telephone Calls, SMS, E-mails as specified in 19.10.2; (ii) more than four hours, Meal as specified in 19.10.1(ii) and Telephone Calls, SMS, E-mails as specified in 19.10.2; and (iii) when the reasonably expected time of departure is at least six hours after the time of departure previously announced, the Hotel accommodation assistance as specified in sections 19.10.1(iii) and Transport assistance as specified in 19.10.1(iv).
Also 19.8.2. of the regulations also state that when passengers are offered re-routing to their final destination on an alternative flight pursuant to Section 19.10 the arrival time of which does not exceed the scheduled arrival time of the flight originally booked: (i) by one hour, in respect of all domestic flights; (ii) by three hours, in respect of all international flights, the operating airline may reduce the compensation provided for in section 19.8.1.by 50%. 19.8.3.
The compensation referred to in Section 19.9.1 (i)immediate reimbursement in cash for domestic flights and reimbursement within fourteen days for international flights, by the means provided for in sections 19.8.3( mode of payment), of the full cost of unutilized ticket at the price at which it was bought, for the part or parts of the journey not made, and for the part or parts already made if the flight is no longer serving any purpose in relation to the passenger’s original travel plan, together with, when relevant, a return flight to the first point of departure, at the earliest opportunity; shall be paid in cash, by electronic bank transfer, bank orders or bank cheques or, with the signed agreement of the passenger, in travel vouchers or other services. 19.8.4. Where compensation is made in voucher, the voucher shall be redeemable at all sales outlets of the air carrier providing the voucher.
(ii) re-routing, under comparable transport conditions, to their final destination at the earliest opportunity; or (iii) re-routing, under comparable transport conditions, to their final destination at a later date at the passenger’s convenience, subject to availability of seats.
In case of cancellation of a flight, the passengers concerned shall: (i) Be offered assistance by the operating air carrier in accordance with Sections 19.6. and; (ii) Be offered assistance by the operating air carrier in accordance with Sections19.9.1(i) and 19.9.2 as well as, in the event of re-routing when the reasonably expected time of departure of the new flight is at least the day after the departure as it was planned for the cancelled flight, the assistance specified in Sections 19.9.1(ii) and 19.9.1(iii); (iii)
In respect of domestic flights, passengers have the right to compensation by the operating air carrier in accordance with Section 19.10 unless they are informed of the cancellation at least twenty-four hours before the scheduled time of departure; and (iv) In respect of international flights, have the right to compensation by the operating air carrier in accordance with Section 19.10, unless: (a) they are informed of the cancellation at least seven days before the scheduled time of departure; (b) they are informed of the cancellation between three and seven days before the scheduled time of departure and are offered re-routing, allowing them to depart not more than two hours before the scheduled time of departure and to reach their final destination less than four hours after the scheduled time of arrival; or (c) they are informed of the cancellation less than seven days before the scheduled time of departure and are offered re-routing, allowing them to depart not more than one hour before the scheduled time of departure and to reach their final destination less than two hours after the scheduled time of arrival.
According to the NCARs. when passengers are informed of the cancellation, an explanation shall be given concerning possible alternative transport.
The NCARs also state that an operating airline shall not be obliged to pay compensation for cancellation if it can prove that the cancellation is caused by extraordinary circumstances which could not have been avoided even if all reasonable measures had been taken.
Also note that 19.7.4. states that the burden of proof concerning any question as to whether and when the passenger has been informed of the cancellation of the flight shall rest with the operating airline.