One of the major challenges facing air passengers in Nigeria and the world by extension is flight delay, which has been a perennial issue, with no end in sight.
Available data from the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, regulators of Nigeria’s aviation sector, revealed that from January to December 2022, over 30,000 flights were either delayed or cancelled by both local and international airlines.
A breakdown of the data by Daily Trust on Sunday shows that on the domestic side, Overland Airways operated 2,926 flights, with 2,451 delays, accounting for 84 per cent delays and 11 cancellations in its operations, followed by Azman Air, which had a 69 per cent delay percentage as it operated 3,713 and had 2,555 delays with 82 flight cancellations.
Arik Air came next on the list with 9,750 flights and 6,440 delays, accounting for 66 per cent of delays in its operations, with 110 cancellations.
United Nigeria, which had 42 cancellations, operated 6,097 times and had 4,000 delays, also with a 66 per cent delay rate.
Dana Air’s operations had 2,906 delays from 4,440 flights at 65 per cent, with 24 flights cancelled, while Air Peace with 24,449 flights delayed 14,908, also averaging 61 per cent and 129 cancellations.
Aero Contractors, which operated 3,106 times, had 1,889 delays and 99 cancellations. Its delay percentage was also 61 per cent, while Green Africa operated 4,648 flights with 2111 delays and 79 cancellations, with a delay percentage of 45 per cent.
On the international side, Cronos recorded the least operation figure of 53 flights but led the pack with 41 delays at 77 per cent delay rate, followed by Turkish Airlines, which operated 654 flights into Nigeria in 2022, with 420 delays at 64 per cent.
Similarly, Kenyan Airways with 60 per cent delays had 344 flights to Nigeria, with 205 delayed. Air Cote D’Ivoire operated 609 times into Nigeria with 314 delays at 52 per cent, while Egypt Air equally followed with 706 flights into Nigeria with 350 delays, which was a 50 per cent delay rate.
Nigerians have overtime complained about delayed flights, which have cost many individuals business deals and other important activities. However, little do Nigerians know that it is within their rights as stipulated by law to demand compensation for delayed flights.
What the law states
Part 19 of the NCAA Act talks about the right to reimbursement or re-routing, where reference is made to the effect that passengers shall be provided any of the following choices: immediate reimbursement in cash for domestic flights, reimbursement within 14 days for international flights by the means provided for in sections 19.8.3(mode of payment) of the full cost of unutilised ticket at the price at which it was bought for the part or parts of the journey not made and for the part or parts already made if the flight is no longer serving any purpose in relation to the passenger’s original travel plan, together with, when relevant, a return flight to the first point of departure, at the earliest opportunity; re-routing, under comparable transport conditions, to their final destination at the earliest opportunity, or re-routing under comparable transport conditions to their final destination at a later date at the passenger’s convenience, subject to availability of seats.
Section 19.9.1(i) shall also apply to passengers whose flights form part of a package, except for the right to reimbursement, where such right arises under any contractual understanding between the passenger and provider.
When an operating air carrier offers a passenger a flight to an airport alternative to that, for which the booking was made, the operating air carrier shall bear the cost of transferring the passenger from that alternative airport, either to the airport for which the booking was made, or to another close-by destination agreed with the passenger.
Upgrading and downgrading
If an operating airline places a passenger in a class higher than that for which the ticket was purchased, it may not request any supplementary payment.
If an operating airline places a passenger in a class lower than that for which the ticket was purchased, by the means provided for in section 19.8.3, it shall immediately reimburse the difference to the passenger in accordance with the mode of payment within 30 days from the date of travel, plus: 30 per cent of the price of the ticket for all domestic flights immediately, and 50 per cent of the price of the ticket for all international flights within 14 days.
Section 19.13.1 shall apply without prejudice to a passenger’s rights under any contract, statute or any other applicable law and without prejudice to relevant principles under any other law, including case law. Section 19.20.1 shall not apply to passengers who have voluntarily surrendered a reservation under section 19.4.1(i).
Right of reimbursement
In cases where an operating air carrier pays compensation or meets the other obligations incumbent on it under these regulations, no provision of these regulations may be interpreted as restricting its right to seek compensation from any person, including third parties, in accordance with any applicable law.
In particular, these regulations shall in no way restrict the operating air carrier’s right to seek reimbursement from a tour operator or any other person with whom the operating air carrier has a contract.
Similarly, no provision of these regulations may be interpreted as restricting the right of a tour operator or a third party, other than a passenger, with whom an operating airline has a contract, to seek reimbursement or compensation from the operating airline in accordance with applicable relevant laws.
Surprisingly, some airlines, including, Aero Contractors, have written policies that their refunds will take 14 to 28 working days, contrary to the regulations of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA). This work reveals the mandatory deadline for refund of all airfares where there is cancellation of flight (domestic or international) by a commercial airline.
Airlines, refunds and passengers
The NCAA is a federal agency that has the power to regulate all commercial airlines in Nigeria, and as such, makes necessary regulations. The NCAA has the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority Regulations 2015, which made provisions for consumer protection issues (rights and obligations of airlines to their customers (passengers). This include the rights of customers to compensation for overbooking, delayed flight, cancelled flights, both domestic and international, as well as for delayed, lost and damaged baggage.
By the regulations, generally, where an airline cancels its flight, all passengers are obviously denied the opportunity to fly but not all of them are entitled to compensation.
The NCAA is a federal regulator that ensures airlines maintain standard and recommended practices for commercial airlines. Logically, and even morally, where a service provider fails to provide services, such service provider must refund any payment received for such uncompleted/unperfected service.
In line with this, NCAA regulations mandate all airlines to refund airfares to passengers of cancelled flights. It also mentioned a compulsory time for such refunds. The regulation mandates airlines to make immediate refund in cash for domestic flights and a refund within 14 days for international flights.
The NCAA is a regulator of all commercial airlines and has a 2015 federal regulation that mandates all airlines to make refunds of airfares to passengers where there is a cancellation of flight by the airline. For domestic flights, the refund must be immediate, and for international flights, the refund must be within 14 days. Also, the refund must be full as no deduction is to be made by the airline.
What govt is saying
Festus Keyamo, the Minister of Aviation and Aerospace Development, said this during a meeting with airline operators in Abuja recently and affirmed that government would soon commence enforcement of the law.
“After some time, we will start implementing the provisions of the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority Act. You know Nigerians don’t know there is compensation for delay. But if it is an act of God, you cannot pay.
“But if it is human fault, the NCAA Act states that you will pay. So, for all airline operators, while I have praised and supported you, I will also support Nigerians. You will pay them. After some time, I will put my feet on the ground. Pay them when you delay and cancel their flights,” Keyamo said.
This Explainer is produced in partnership with the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD)