An NCAA official witnessed the poor treatment of the passengers.
Nigerian aviation authorities are currently investigating complaints from at least 12 passengers over the ‘shoddy’ treatment meted on them by Aero Contractors, an aviation spokesperson has said.
Yakubu Datti, the coordinating spokesperson for Nigeria’s aviation parastatals, confirmed the receipt of the complaints by the agency on Saturday evening.
“Yes we have received complaints from 12 passengers, and appropriate actions will be taken,” Mr. Datti told PREMIUM TIMES.
While aviation authorities investigate the allegations, PREMIUM TIMES can report that by delaying a flight for over 11 hours, all through the night, and failing to provide either refreshment or hotel accommodation for the affected passengers, Aero Contractors violated sections of the Passenger Bill of Rights.
The Bill, put in place by the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority to protect the rights of passengers and airlines, provides, among others, guidelines that must be followed by airlines in cases such as flight delays, cancellations, and over-bookings.
Aero had delayed its flight AJ132 from Abuja to Lagos on Friday, first for about three hours (from 6:30 p.m. to 9:45 p.m.), then for over 11 hours till 8:00 a.m. on Saturday.
Most of the passengers were informed via sms and email of the first delay several hours to departure.
“This is to inform you that our flight AJ132 from Abuja to Lagos Today the 8th of November 2013, has been rescheduled to 21:40hrs due to operational reasons. Check in starts two (2) hours before and ends forty(40) minutes before departure. We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this may cause you. For rescheduling, please call: 01-6284140 or mail firstname.lastname@example.org,” the airline said in the message sent to the passengers.
However, dozens of the passengers who started arriving the airport as early as 1:00 p.m. on Friday were shocked when the airline announced a delay of the flight again.
When the plane that was to convey the passengers finally arrived Abuja at about 12:00 midnight, the pilot simply refused to fly.
Section 22.214.171.124 states the actions that must be taken by an airline that delays a flight.
The law states that “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 the assistance specified below:
“a. immediately after one hour, the assistance specified in section 126.96.36.199(a) (Refreshments) and section 188.8.131.52 (telephone calls, SMS and E-mails).
“b. at a time between 10p.m. and 4a.m., or at a time when the airport is closed at the point of departure or final destination, the assistance specified in sections 184.108.40.206(c) and 220.127.116.11(d) (hotel accommodation and transport);”
In other words, Aero was supposed to provide not only refreshments, but also hotel accommodation for the almost 60 passengers it made to sleep on the airport floors because of the flight delay.
The airline provided neither.
PREMIUM TIMES had reported how the passengers had survived through the night at the airport, which is currently undergoing renovation with no place for rest. Some of the passengers were walked out of an Aero jet they had slept in at about 3:00 a.m. by a soldier.
“The treatment was really shoddy. Not only did they not provide any (refreshment or hotel), they could not even apologise to us officially when we eventually flew to Lagos (on Saturday morning),” Charles Musa, one of the affected passengers, said.
Mr. Musa, who is among those who complained to the NCAA, said that an official of the agency was with the passengers all through the night and pledged not to leave the airport until the passengers travelled to Lagos.
Aero’s likely penalties
Apart from providing guidelines to be followed by airlines during flight delays and cancellation, the Passenger Bill of Rights also provides penalties for defaulters that fail to adhere to the guideline.
The law provides “civil penalties as minimum, moderate or maximum for a single violation of a particular regulation.”
While the minimum penalty is N100, 000, the moderate is N250, 000, and the maximum is N500, 000.
Apart from this recommended penalty, the Bill also states that “The Authority may also refer the violator for criminal prosecution as provided in the Civil Aviation Act 2006.”
Mr. Datti explained that the NCAA was determined to enforce its laws to the latter after investigation of the complaints and urged passengers who continuously suffer from such delays by airlines in Nigeria to report such cases as the agency can only act after a formal report.
However, PREMIUM TIMES learnt that some of the passengers may be preparing a court action against Aero.
Aero is yet to react to PREMIUM TIMES enquiry. Calls made to its spokesperson, Simon Tumba’s telephone numbers were unanswered, while a text message enquiry was not responded to.