Nothing can be as frustrating as becoming a bundle of raw nerves at the end of a journey that would have lasted only 50 minutes but, for some inexplicable reasons, you were delayed for more than 5 hours at the airport. The most annoying part is that the airline in question couldn’t tell you why you were being delayed.
And to a business conscious person like Mrs. Adebola George, this is weird in the ethics and norms associated with business operation. It is also an abuse of her contractual rights to comfort and convenience; having paid N148,500 for a to and fro Arik Air flight ticket, just to keep her appointment in Ghana on time, the airline failed to keep its schedule on time. She had sleepless nights, missed her connecting flight to Kumasi and would never forget the repugnant feeling that stuck with her after the experience in the flights.
It all started on Sunday evening, 11th December, 2016, when Mrs. George, a middle aged business woman left the comfort of her home in Lagos to honour a business appointment scheduled for 9AM the following morning in Mim, a suburb of Brong Ahafo, Ghana. Before embarking on the journey, her husband warned her against booking an Arik Air flight but there weren’t other options available. To beat the time factor, she reluctantly booked for an Arik flight scheduled for 5:15PM against her wish.
She made it to the Murtala Muhammed International Airport as early as 4PM. And after she was subjected to security screenings and checked in by 4:15PM, the sad story began:
“My journey to Accra was to begin Sunday afternoon. I had a meeting for 9AM in Mim, which is a 7 hour journey from Accra. My husband had told me Arik disappoints a lot so I shouldn’t fly with them. I could not get a time that coincided with the journey I wanted to make so I decided to try Arik, believing that things might actually work but I was I wrong.
I arrived Murtala Muhammed International Airport at 4 pm. I was checked in by 4.15. The gate and everything was indicated on my boarding pass. So I proceeded to the gate. I arrived at the gate at 4.30 believing that the attendants would be waiting to board us as the flight was due to leave at 5.15pm. I waited and waited, time was now 6 pm. I saw other passengers also waiting so I thought everything was okay; I didn’t miss the flight. I continued to wait. But at this point, there was no information and nobody to ask what was happening.
I continued to wait, by this time it was 7.30. A passenger then said that the flight hand been delayed that we would be leaving at 8pm. I had, at this point, missed my connecting flight to Kumasi. I called my contact that it looks like we will be leaving at 8PM, but before I knew it, the time was 9PM. All throughout this, there was no information. No one from Arik addressed us passengers. No one had information.
I tried to find out if the flight had been cancelled as it was getting late. But all the while passengers remained at the gate hoping something will happen soon. So I, too, did the same. Four passengers came along because they were to catch the 8:15PM flight. Then around 9.45, an Arik staff came to say that those for the 5.15 should start to board and those for 8:15 would not travel on Sunday again. It was just horrible! Yes I did board and we left at around 10.00PM.
The captain apologised and said that they were trying to fuel; that was the reason for the delay.
My journey back on Tuesday morning, which was 13th December, 2016, was pretty much the same. Because I had a return ticket, I arrived at Accra airport at 5AM for 8.15 AM flight. We left Accra after 1PM. No apologies, no explanations, let alone compensation for wasting our precious time! Meanwhile, a Ghanaian airline came and left, no issues.”
The story did not end there. After enduring the obnoxious delays, she was constrained to small seats, scrunched up with other passengers with little or no space; she could feel the risk of contracting pathogens in the flight. And coupled with the unfriendly attitudes of the crew members, she felt the frustration had gone beyond the limit of her endurance. She wouldn’t suffer for what she paid for and keep silent. Hence, she vented her spleen:
“Shame to Arik Air, they are operating with impunity. The government needs to revoke their license. Why are airlines in Nigeria so badly behaved and our government doesn’t sanction them or call them to order?”
Mrs. George disclosed further that the crew members were not approachable; “they were not communicative,” she said. According to her, she suffered financial loss, a lot of discomfort and a degree of safety because the “hired car left and I had to find public transport to get to my destination. Imagine a woman travelling 7 hours from Accra to a remote town; I was putting myself in some danger,” she added.
In reaction, the General Manager, Public Relations, Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Mr. Sam Adurogboye, said Mrs. George actually deserved some explanation as to why the airline wasted her time and subjected her to such unhygienic condition in the flight. According to him, it was an encroachment on her rights and she has the right to sue the airline for compensation through the Consumer Protection Department of the Authority.
“It is one of those cases we have received and have intervened on behalf of the passengers that fell victim. But we don’t just do that; there is a process. They have to put in a complaint to the airline in question, and if they are not satisfied with their response, they can report to the authority through the CPC; that’s why there are CPC offices at the arrival lounges of all the airports. This is because the airline may deny that it wasn’t aware of such incident,” said Adurogboye.
He advised that Mrs. George should follow the same process and she will be given fair hearing. If there is evidence of infringement, the airline will be held culpable and sanctioned according to the regulatory benchmarks enshrined in part 19 of Nig. CARs 2012, Vol. II on passengers’ rights, obligations and responsibilities.
Among other rights, the document demands that all passengers must have full value for their money. They have the right to compensation for flight cancellations, delays, damaged/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.
They also have the right to be fully informed about flight status and to seek redress for all irregularities during their flight.
Mrs. George was denied of all these rights but, according to her, instead of seeking redress, she’d rather stop flying Arik, wondering why the airline is in business when it’s “not being mindful of other people’s businesses.”