- Asks airline to submit written commitment to prevent recurrence
- Arik to face legal suit for negligence
The Consumer Protection Council (CPC) yesterday announced that it had brought its regulatory powers to bear against Aero Contractors Airline, having found it culpable of gross disregard of the rights of passengers on its November 8, 2013 Abuja to Lagos bound flight AJ132.
To this end, it had ordered the airline to pay N41,000 each to the affected passengers within 30 days.
The Director-General of the agency, Mrs. Dupe Atoki, who disclosed this while briefing journalists in Lagos, said apart from the N41,000 compensation, Aero Contractors must also refund 25 per cent of the passengers’ ticket value for abandoning them at the airport overnight.
The compensation, she said, would make up for the inconveniences which the passengers suffered because the airline refused to provide reliefs that should have been provided during the period of delay, in line with the Passengers’ Bill of Rights (PBR), a regulation enacted by the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) which is binding on all airlines operating in Nigeria.
She said: “Each of the passengers of the flight should be paid N5,000 for snacks and drinks due to them after one hour as well as meals and drinks due after two hours of delay; The passengers are also entitled to N1, 000 for two free telephone calls, SMS or email; N10, 000 for return transportation to and from the airport; N25,000 for hotel accommodation; and 25 per cent of their ticket value for the cancellation of the flight without notice.
“The council also directed the airline to review and submit to it within 90 days, its Disruption/Crises Management Manual in line with the PBR; establish a customer service platform in each airport in Nigeria and its other locations to facilitate on-the-spot resolution of consumer complaints and report to the Council within 180 days.”
Atoki added: “They are also to develop and submit to the Council within 30 days a prototype statement, which Aero Contractors will be presenting to passengers at check-in, in respect of payment of the relevant refund/compensation when flights are cancelled without notice and in the event of class downgrade.”
Aero contractors Airlines was also directed to present to the council within 30 days, written assurances in line with Section 10 of the CPC Act that it would refrain from a continuation of any conduct which is detrimental to the interests of consumers.
Explaining the rationale for the order, the CPC boss pointed out that, in line with its mandate to protect and promote the interest of consumers, the council carried out an investigation on the airline’s reported action of November 8, 2013, which left 39 passengers of its Flight AJ132 stranded overnight at the Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport in Abuja.
According to her, the panel of investigators, which considered responses from the affected passengers and the airline, “substantiated the allegation of violation of the CPC Act, the Passenger Bill of Rights (PBR) in the Consumer Protection Regulations Part 19 of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Regulations (NCAR) and other extant consumer protection enactments.”
She disclosed that the panel’s key findings included the fact that the flight was delayed for 15 hours without due care for the affected passengers, contrary to the provisions of the PBR and that the crisis management processes and procedure of Aero Contractors fell short of international best practices and certainly did not ameliorate the traumatic experiences of the affected passengers.
Other findings, according to her, are “that the mechanism or structure to inform consumers of their rights be put in place by Aero Contractors is inadequate as it presupposes that passengers must first ask for their rights before they are informed; that apart from the offer of complimentary tickets to affected passengers to any destination of their choice, which does not replace their entitlement under PBR, no apology was tendered.”
Atoki, also noted that there was inconclusive evidence on prevention of future occurrences and that Aero Contractors did not take adequate measures to provide redress for its passengers whose rights had been infringed upon, thereby contravening the CPC Act, the PBR and international best practice.
Meanwhile, a Professor of Geo-physics, Charles Ofoegbu, has threatened to sue the management of Arik Air for leaving the service door of the aircraft half-open on board, risking the lives of about 100 passengers.
Ofoegbu, who lost his wife Beatrice, in the ill-fated Sosoliso Aircraft that claimed about 107 lives in 2005, complained bitterly about the rot in the aviation sector, as he said the sector operates without effective regulations.
The professor also said the management of Arik airline would have to explain why the Sunday evening’s flight destined for Dakar via Accra was rudely terminated without an alternative arrangement.
While narrating his ordeal to journalists in his Abuja residence yesterday, Ofoegbu explained the flight he boarded from Abuja to Dakar with ticket number 7254199319355 abandoned him and 45 other passengers in Accra.
“As soon as the pilot took off, the aircraft was making so much noise. Some people thought it was the kitchen appliances that were rattling; all the passengers were pressing the alarm button because we were visibly bothered, before the pilot announced that one of the doors was poorly closed and that he noticed that air was entering from the service door, which means it wasn’t closed. He announced that he was going back to land so that the ground staff could close the service door properly.”
Ofoegbu said when the aircraft finally landed to offload the Accra passengers very late, and the Arik crew announced that the flight had been terminated as they ordered passengers out of the aircraft.