When Silence Is Not Golden

An Arik Air aircraft
An Arik Air aircraft

Despite the series of flight delays and cancellations suffered by passengers, Arik Airlines has chosen not to make any explanation

|  By Vincent Nzemeke  |  Aug. 12, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

FOR Victor Nnaji, Sunday, July 28, will always be remembered for the wrong reasons. It was a day when he missed an opportunity to reunite with his secondary school class mates, many of whom he had not seen for decades because his flight which was supposed to take him from Lagos to Warri was delayed.

Nnaji was one of the passengers booked to fly on the Arik Air flight W34001 which was scheduled to depart Lagos at 8.15 a.m and land in Warri by 9.25 a.m. But that morning flight did not take off until about 5.30pm after a series of protests from Nnaji and other aggrieved passengers.

Narrating his experience, Nnaji told Realnews that many of the passengers left the airport in annoyance to travel by road. “This flight was supposed to take off latest by 8.30 am but as at 2pm, we were still waiting. Some of us approached the Arik Air desk and none of the officials there could offer any reason for the delay. The protest was bound to happen because passengers were already agitated and the airline was not doing anything to assuage their feelings. This is a very sad development and it can only happen in a country like Nigeria where we take everything for granted. I have missed a re-union party due to the delay.”

Some stranded passengers at Lagos airport
Some stranded passengers at Lagos airport

In a similar development, Tolu Ogunlesi, a columnist with a Lagos based newspaper, wrote about his bitter experience with Arik Air last week. According to him, he was booked for a 7pm Arik Air flight to Lagos. He got to the airport at about 6pm, got his boarding pass, and waited for the boarding announcement. At 7pm, an announcement came that the flight was going to be delayed for two hours. At 9pm, another announcement was made to inform passengers that the flight will now take off at 10.45pm.

The announcement drew the ire of many passengers who approached the airline’s counter at the airport for an explanation. Like those in Lagos, the officials cited technical reasons and scarcity of aviation fuel for the delays.

To avoid the risk of travelling at night, Ogunlesi decided to return home and make the journey the next morning. He arrived at the airport at 7am and got a space on a 9am flight. An angry Ogunlesi eventually had to buy a ticket of another airline when he heard an announcement that the 9am flight to Lagos would also be delayed.

Other than the experiences of Nnaji and Ogunlesi, there have been several complaints of delayed and cancelled flights by Arik Air. Social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter have been inundated with pictures of stranded passengers at the airport. It was reported sometimes last week that a Wednesday night flight from Lagos to New York didn’t take off until Thursday morning 10 hours after the scheduled departure time.

On Friday, July 26, some passengers on social media platforms also shared their experiences about a 6pm Abuja to Uyo flight that did not take off until about 10pm. When the flight finally took off, the passengers were first taken to Kano and eventually landed in Uyo at 2am the next day.

Stranded passengers
Stranded passengers

Aside from the economic and personal losses that come with a delayed or cancelled flight, what seems to annoy passengers the most is the “flimsy excuses” they get from airlines operators when they are delayed. They are also annoyed that Nigerian airlines do not offer any form of compensation for delayed or cancelled flights.

For instance, when Nnaji and other passengers approached Banji Ola, Arik Air spokesperson, about the delayed flight, all he could say was that the delay was caused by “technical reason”. Although there has been no official statement from the airline for the recent delays and cancellation of flights, one of its officials at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, who wishes anonymity because he was not authorised to speak publicly, told Realnews that it was caused by scarcity of aviation fuel. According to him, even though the price of the commodity has not been increased, it is not available. He also disclosed that many airlines in Lagos and Abuja have to go to Kano to refill before airlifting passengers.

Bothered by the series of complaints from passengers, Adamu Abdullahi, director, Consumer Protection Directorate, Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority NCAA, has affirmed that the NCAA law on consumer rights, which came into effect in September 2012, mandates all airlines operating in the country to refund to passengers their airfare after two hours of delaying their flight.

Abdullahi, who was a guest on a Television programme in Lagos, on Monday, July 29, said the NCAA was making efforts to implement the law which mandates airlines to serve passengers refreshment after a one hour delay and refund their fares after two hours. “Now that the directorate is fully empowered by the law, it will not be business as usual in the aviation sector as sanctions will be levied against airlines that default on customer satisfaction.”

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