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Safety relief for air travellers as NCAA presents bill on consumer rights

By on July 17, 2013

FRIDAY July 19, 2013 promises to be a land mark in the annals of the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA as well as air travellers in the country. On this date, passengers on both domestic and international flights can heave a sigh of relief as NCAA would present to the public its Consumers’ Bill of Rights as well as launch its Consumer Digest. The Consumer Digest, a pamphlet, seeks to enlighten air travellers on the Regulation NCAA has promulgated for their protection. The rights are drawn from Part 19 of “NCAA Regulations 2012, Vol. II.”

Accordingly, all airlines, foreign and domestic, are subject to the provisions of the Bill. For instance, regulation one prescribes the minimum rights and duties of passengers and the obligations of airlines. To ensure it takes off without a hitch the NCAA organised a three-day training workshop for its staff. The workshop was designed  for Consumer Protection Officers on NCARs Part 19.

In addition to this, the Consumer Protection Directorate under NCAA will be engaged in serious advocacy in this regard. This will come in form of  bulk sms. Some of the sms would read thus: “Do you know that you are entitled to some rights, demand for it when the need arises from the airline. Your rights are not a privilege, but your entitlement. They are obligatory on the airlines. Demand for them.  Every airline passenger whose rights are infringed upon is to demand restitution at the point of infringement.

Others would  be to inform air passengers what to do during flight delay.  For example: “ If your flight is delayed for at least one hour/cancelled without prior notice, ask the airline officials for a written statement of your rights, particularly with regards to compensation or assistance. If your bag is damaged/ pilfered /delayed/ missing, ensure that you report to the airline and also fill the PIR Form at the airline’s counter before leaving the airport.

Persons with Reduced Mobility have the right to priority boarding/assistance from the airline. When infringed, pack your luggage yourself, carry valid photo ID, arrive at the airport on time one hour for domestic flight,  three hours for international flight and be of good behaviour”. This sms comes with a phone contact and and email address.

The regulation, according to the bill, shall apply on the occurrence of any of the following:  No-show and overbooking of flights, denied boarding against the will of a passenger, delayed scheduled flights, and cancelled scheduled flights.

In 2008, for example, about 63 cases involving air passengers and airlines were resolved by NCAA, while in 2009 about 40 cases were resolved. These cases range from missing luggage, flight cancellation to delayed flights. The authority recorded the highest number of resolved cases in 2010 with 65 settled issues.

The Directorate has initiated an electronic data capturing application. This is an on-line complaint collation machinery. On completion, the system will go a long way in simplifying and perfecting the complaint collation and resolution procedure.

International airports

Presently, there are Consumer Protection Officers’ posted to the four major international airports (Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Mallam Aminu Kano  International Airport, Port-Harcourt International Airport and Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport– on 24 hours basis) and   16 other domestic airports in the country. Their presence at these airports will enable stakeholders get prompt  resolution of their complaints, concerns and inquiries.

The portal will incorporate a call centre with a toll-free number where complainants can call in to lay their complaints, or fill the on-line complaint form, which immediately delivers at the data centre. The software  will also enable the Directorate to track the concerns of stakeholders.

With the coming into force of the Regulations, Nigerian Civil Aviation Regulation’s PART 19- consumers of aviation services and products certainly have better days ahead!