By the time I finished Malcom Gladwell’s Outliers which I had come to Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, with, I had stayed about two hours at the waiting lounge – an hour later than when my flight to Lagos was scheduled to take off. I was already grumbling and cursing, little did I know I had another seven hours to wait, enough time to go home, sleep and return early before departure. Thanks to Dana Air, I and my colleagues arrived Lagos some minutes to 12 midnight! The unforgettable date was July 5.
I am pretty sure you’ve had a similar experience, maybe waiting even longer hours. You end up missing important appointments like meetings, interviews and even trips. And what do you get in return? A pack containing Happy Hour juice, Cream Crackers biscuit, chips/cake and sweet. If you stay too long, they pass another pack around and it all ends there.
Let me shock you: According to records from the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), In the third quarter of 2016, airlines operating in the country delayed their flight 7,722 times; between July and September last year, sixty-one percent of the domestic flights were delayed; and by June 2018, an average of 93 flights were delayed every day since the beginning of the year.
Interestingly, in all these cases, there is no known instance where an airline was compelled to award damages to stranded passengers. Their thinking, probably, is that Nigerians are always hungry and so, dangle a pack of juice and biscuit and cake at their face and it’s all settled. Sad.
But what does the law say? The Civil Aviation Ac, 2016, spells out punishments for flight delay particularly in avoidable cases. Article 19 of the act states: “The carrier is liable for damage occasioned by delay in the carriage by air of passengers, baggage or cargo. Nevertheless, the carrier shall not be liable for damage occasioned by delay if it proves that it and its servants and agents took all measures that could reasonably be required to avoid the damage or that it was impossible for it or them to take such measures.” Further down its article 22 (1), the act adds: “In the case of damage caused by delay as specified in Article 19 in the carriage of persons, the liability of the carrier for each passenger is limited to 4 150 Special Drawing Rights.”
The questions begging for answer now are, what usually causes the delays? Are they avoidable? Most times, the airlines claim safety and operational reasons, especially during adverse weather conditions. But what efforts do they make to keep passengers abreast of the situation? While some attempt to give reasons, others simply stop at feigned apologies from operators that apparently never care about travellers’ welfare.
My last flight, from Lagos to Abuja, was another disaster, having waited at the airport for two hours. By the time we were finally boarding at past 8pm, our ears were short of being numb from the noise coming from faulty speakers coupled with disrupted phonetics from operators. Another round of meetings and other important engagements were missed. But, as usual, Air Peace made sure we all got our share of the juice and biscuit while waiting; and that is where it ends. Shaking-my-head.
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