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Knowing your airport rights

Domestic airlines grapple with series of challenges ranging from increase in aviation fuel price, epileptic navigational aids, poor infrastructure, and damage to aircraft as a result of limited packing space, and dollar scarcity which sometimes delays their ability to take their airlines for maintenance.

These challenges have translated into many airlines being forced to cancel flights at short notice or frequently delaying flights, which is fast becoming a culture in the Nigerian aviation industry.

Passengers have had to bear the brunt of these inadequacies in the Nigerian aviation industry and are beginning to take out their frustration on airline staff, who most of the times are not even aware of the challenges the airline is facing.

A case in point was an incident that happened last month when the winglet of one of Air Peace aircraft, which was being towed within the very limited space at the ramp of the Murtala Muhammed Airport in Lagos to position for departure, had a partial contact with the stabiliser of another of its aircraft.

The airline subsequently declared the two aircraft unserviceable immediately.  Air Peace was helplessly compelled to adjust its schedules to close the gaps created by the two aircraft, which were scheduled to do 14 schedules. While they were trying to salvage the situation, some unruly passengers took the law into their own hands by preventing passengers from boarding and making it impossible for the aircraft to fly.

Why this matters

It is important that passengers realize that being unruly at airports pose danger not only to the staff but also to themselves. No passenger would want to be flown by an angry pilot or a pilot who feels assaulted. There are clear policies in place for passengers to seek remedy when stranded at airport and attacking airline staff is not included.

 According to the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, traveling by air or using air transport services confers certain rights. But it also comes with some responsibilities. Among the main ones are:
The right to the full value for your money.

The right to compensation for flight cancellation, delays, damaged or loss baggage and denied boarding for reasons other than technical, weather conditions, air traffic control restrictions, security risks and industrial disputes that affect the operation of the flight.

 The right to book and confirm tickets with an airline of your choice.

 The right to the provision of a conducive airport environment before, during, and after flights.

The right to seek redress for all irregularities during your flight.

The right to timely feedback in respect of matters and complaints lodged with service providers.

The right to be fully informed about flight status.

 The right to be treated with respect and dignity irrespective of race or physical condition.

On the other hand, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) Bill of Right, requires the following from the airlines:

In the case of delays, passengers are entitled to re-routing, refunds or care and assistance; and acknowledge that when delays or disruptions are beyond the control of the airlines, market forces should determine the care and assistance available to passengers.

In the case of denied boarding and cancellations, passengers are entitled to re-routing, refunds or compensation where circumstances are within the airlines’ control.

If a delay of 45 minutes or more is expected, or if the flight is cancelled, at least 2 hours ahead of the scheduled departure time, the airline is to contact the passenger.

 On cases of flight cancellations, airlines will use reasonable endeavours to re-book the passenger on an alternative flight at no additional cost to the passenger. If this is not suitable, then the airline will refund the full fare.

On cases of delay overnight for reasons within the airline’s control (technical problems, operational issues), or an overnight disruption for reasons outside its control (bad weather, natural disasters) away from the home port – the airline will provide meals, accommodation and transfers.

But passengers are not expected to take laws into their hands if and when there are operational hiccups, which are capable of truncating air services.
 Knowing these rights and responsibilities will reduce the rising attacks of airline at the nation’s airports.
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