IN this interview with Director, Consumer Protection, Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Mallam Adamu Abdullahi, he speaks on a lot of issues ranging from Arik Air cancellation of international operations and how it affects passengers to the closure of the Abuja Runway in March. Nigeriaflightdeck was privy to this conversation. Excerpts
Air passengers are your responsibility now that AMCON has taken over Arik Air, what happens to the teeming passengers whose monies are stoke them with ticket purchased for local and international flights?
Yes this true, this has even become more compounded because Arik management, the new Arik management has come out openly to say that they have suspended flights into most of their international routes, JFK is out now, London Heathrow is no more but what we have done is to talk to the new management of the airline and through our DG also speak to AMCON and inform them that yes the airline’s accounts have been garnished but then there are some responsibilities that have to be carried out, in that consumers, that is the airline passengers have to be catered for and so far, I would say, the new management has been doing the right thing because since I spoke directly with the new management, we have noticed that they now carry passengers along, they have a robust customer service department now which I can vouch for which I know have been addressing passenger and addressing the peculiar needs of individual passengers to the extent that most the passengers have now virtually left unless off course you have booked your tickets for a much later flights and even at that, if by then the airline has not resume those operations they will endorse you on another airline that’s what they have been doing or they would refund you your full fare which they have also been doing. I will say they have been doing well, so far, so good, things have taken their right course, there are no more course and I will say, we don’t have much number of aggrieved passengers anymore and not since last week.
What assurance are you giving to passengers that what happened last year would repeat itself again?
You see the issue of assurances of what happened would not happen again is not a possibility because in aviation, delays, cancellations, miss routed bags, missing bags etc is a continuous thing, it must happen, it’s the handling that we have to look at that aspect of it because the regulations are very clear, if you delay a flight this is what the airline should do and this is what the passenger should do, if you cancel the flight, this is what the passenger should do , they have both obligations and they have their responsibilities.
So therefore, in as much as the airlines do what they are supposed to do we don’t have any quarrel, you can cancel all the flights you want to cancel but give the options that the regulations say you must give, take the passengers on another flights where possible, if not, refund them their money immediately, so that they can and go and buy another tickets and apply all the other rules, that’s it, once that is done, nothing to worry about.
Very soon the Abuja airport will be shut to flights to effect repairs on its runway, passengers are expected to feel the effect more, do you for see any problem you feel you can start working on to ensure they are minimized?
We as CPD has been carried along from initial stage in that we have attended all the stakeholders fora that were held by the honorable minister and we have had discussions with the airport authority, we know what’s going on, we know how prepared they are, in fact, I also happened to be at the meetings held with the Kaduna state government officials in the aspects in which Kaduna state government was going to come in and we have seen how Kaduna state government is coming in and that those roads have been done, road to the train station as well as the by-pass and the Kaduna road is being done as well. Personally because Abuja-Kaduna road, one lane is now closed to traffic and we can see work being done on the other lane. So all in all, once the roads are done, traffic is controlled, you give people the alternatives so that if you need a helicopter, helicopter services is available which is now available anyway and if you need to go by train you have access to train station , if you want to go by bus, the buses are made available, I don’t envisage we are going to have any problems.
And this issues of international airlines opting not to go to Kaduna is really a commercial decision it’s not government’s job to push them or force into going to certain airport, the minister has explained this many times that what is really happening is whenever you have a flight from point A to point B there is always a point C which is the alternate airport. So government is offering them Kaduna as an alternative to Abuja, if the airline don’t want to go to Kaduna its their own choice, it’s a commercial decision, they can come to Lagos or go to anywhere else they want to go to in Nigeria for the matter and once they have an agreement with their passengers as I said it’s a commercial decision and that’s that, there is nothing really to worry about.
You recent won the award as the Aviation Director of the year 2016 and your Directorate, the Best Overall Consumer Services Unit, how does this make you feel?
It is recognition for things that the organizers considered we have done well beyond that it started with our own DG first and foremost with a corporate ward to the DG because NCAA has been doing things right, as you can see we have recorded 3 straight years of accident free aviation now and we have minimized incidence in aviation and even the consumer protection issues that we have been getting complaints in thousands now it’s now in trickles because the airlines now know what to do and they have been doing the needful so that customers get the services they pay for and all in all, I would say we are very glad that we are being recognized and I have done at the venue, I dedicate the two awards to the men and women of the CPD who through rain, through sun, through shine have been in all the airports in the country trying to deliver and more kudos and more power to their elbows.