By ISAAC TERSOO AGBER
NIGERIA’S “air giant” of the moment, Arik Air, is in the eye of storm again over persistent disruption of flight schedules. The airline has been described as the most unreliable in time management and the “worst choice” to business travelers.
In a chat with some passengers at the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos, National Daily gathered that the airline, once toasted as the travelers’ pride with more than 10 million passengers on its domestic, regional and international routes as at September 2012, is gradually losing grip of those large numbers to other airlines due to poor schedule integrity and customer dissatisfaction.
“If you’ve nothing to do and nowhere to go, just go to the airport and hang out with Arik- you will surely be going nowhere fast! Arik Arik Arik, the molue company that likes to think it’s an airline, rants Bologi Jimeda, aviation engineer who happens to book a flight with the airline at a wrong time.
He continues: “How can you not love their ambition to become an airline after they’ve succeeded in turning their Molues into what looks like airplanes that look for all the world like they could actually take to the skies. After all what else could one possibly be doing at an airport if not to come and sit in decrepit lounges and while away the time going nowhere. Perhaps, that’s why I’m all dressed up with nowhere to go because yet another delay has just been announced while I spectate on what looks like the real planes taking to the skies. How can you not like Arik. Nice!”
As for Maxwell Okpomontia, “Arik is a bad news! It is the worst choice for anyone who values time. I may never fly Arik.” And the complaints have continued to rain harsh and bitter criticisms against the airline.
Most of the times Arik passengers rarely get apology and or explanation in the case of flight delays that run into several hours and no refund in the case of cancellation even when passengers eventually lose important appointments, which are usually the reasons most of them fly.
The airline topped the list of airlines that cancelled and delayed flights in April, 2016, according to a report by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority. Out of the 8,478 cases of delayed flights, Arik recorded 2,801 and 99 cancelled flights out of the 281 reported by the NCAA.
This was followed by Aero Contractors, which recorded 1,762 delayed flights and 94 cancellations, out of its 2,823 flight operations. Air Peace operated 2,686 flights with 1,175 incidences of delayed flights and four cancellations.
Though flights can be cancelled due to bad weather, natural disasters, and mechanical issues, it is completely against the rights of passengers when flights are cancelled or delayed without any good explanation.
In line with the NCAA’s charter on passengers’ rights in the event of delay or cancellation of flights provides that airlines should provide food, water, accommodation and access to telephone calls to the passengers. And, unless there are safety or security issues surrounding the incident,the defaulting airline must also provide functioning lavatories and medical attention to any passengers in need. Passengers must also be updated on the status of the delay once every 30 minutes.
Unfortunately, travelers on domestic flights in Nigeria don’t have many rights. In fact, most airlines say they have no legal obligation to provide delayed passengers with compensation. This includes vouchers for hotels and food as practiced in other countries.
Also, an airline’s ‘contract of carriage’ (sometimes called ‘conditions of carriage’) is the legal document from airlines that spells out exactly what a carrier will and will not do for passengers. These documents can be hard to follow since many are packed with legalese and conditions. Investigation has shown that airlines in Nigeria haven’t made the document available to passengers.
As for Arik, it will be doing itself a disservice if it chooses to ignore the plights of its passengers who are gradually moving to where they will get customer satisfaction and proper service without frequent delays and cancellations.