Why Air Peace does not have to apologize


 By Hussaini Jibrin

In early March 2014, I was on a trip from Grand Forks to Washington DC via Minneapolis-Saint Paul Airport. On that fateful day, the aircraft we were to fly out of Grand Forks developed a technical fault which was realized while we’re aboard. We got deboarded as a result. We couldn’t be flown out till after 2 pm (a flight scheduled to depart around 9 am).

Arriving in Minneapolis, my new connecting flight (since I couldn’t make the original connection due to the delay) departed minutes after our arrival, so that too was missed. Due to inclement weather in the northeast, a lot of flights were canceled therefore connecting flights were Inadequate. The only available flight to Washington-Dulles was full and couldn’t accommodate any of us on reserve list.

Having lost every chance of getting to DC that evening, I approached the crisis center of the airline for what is there for me. I was informed the airline company has no liability since the cause of the delay is not under their control. All they can do is arrange subsidized hotel accommodation and come back the next day for my flight. I had to pay for my taxi to and from the hotel and pay for the night’s stay in the hotel.

In air travel, delays and cancelations and other passenger protection issues are guided by the Montreal Convention, and the rights of each party are clearly spelled out.

There’s what is called “Extra Ordinary Circumstances” defined as “any mechanical, technical, operational, climatic, socio-political or any other conditions beyond the actual control of the party involved.” When a flight is subject to an “extraordinary circumstance” the passenger has no right to claim.

The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority has regulations that guide the conduct of civil aviation in Nigeria. Nigerian Civil Aviation Regulations (Nig. CARs) Part 19, a domestication of the rules for air carriage, states the following::

“19.6. DELAY

19.6.1. DOMESTIC FLIGHTS. For domestic flights, when an operating air carrier reasonably expects a flight to be delayed beyond its scheduled time of departure, it shall provide the passengers with reason(s) for the delay within 30 minutes after the scheduled departure time and the assistance specified below :

(i) after two hours, refreshments as specified in section 19.10.1(i) and telephone calls, SMS, and E-mails as specified in section 19.10.2 ;

(ii) Beyond three (3) hours, Reimbursement as specified in Section 19.9.1(i); and

(iii) at a time beyond 10 pm till 4 am, or at a time when the airport is closed at the point of departure or final destination, the assistance specified in sections 19.10.1(iii)and 19.10.1(iv) (hotel accommodation and transport)

19.6.2. INTERNATIONAL FLIGHTS. For international flights, when an operating air carrier reasonably expects a flight to be delayed beyond its scheduled time of departure, it shall provide to the passengers the assistance specified below :
(i) between two and four hours, compensation as specified in sections 19.8.1(i) and Telephone Calls, SMS, E-mails as specified in 19.10.2 ;
(ii) more than four hours, Meal as specified in 19.10.1(ii) and Telephone Calls, SMS, E-mails as specified in 19.10.2; and
(iii) when the reasonably expected time of departure is at least six hours after the time of departure previously announced, the Hotel accommodation assistance as specified in sections 19.10.1(iii) and Transport assistance as specified in 19.10.1(iv). In any event, the assistance shall be provided within the time limits set out in these regulations.”

“19.7.3. An operating airline shall not be obliged to pay compensation for cancellation if it can prove that the cancellation is caused by extraordinary circumstances which could not have been avoided even if all reasonable measures had been taken.”

I wrote all these to predicate my position on the hullabaloo about the flight delay that caused the Emir of Kano to miss his flight from Lagos to Kano.

Legally speaking, Emir of Kano was on two different flights, and not one, so his Dakar to Lagos flight has no connection with Lagos to Kano flight. The delayed departure out of Banjul was about an hour which doesn’t qualify for any compensation and it isn’t on the same ticket with the Lagos to Kano flight.

As far as Nig. CARs is concerned, the Emir of Kano has no claim on Banjul-Lagos flight. He has a “No Show” on the Lagos-Kano ticket whose handling will be subject to the policies of the airline.

The Kano Emirate Council shouldn’t have brought this issue to the public in the first place let alone demanding an apology where there’s no offence. There is absolutely no basis for demand of apology or threat of action.

To have an efficient air travel industry in Nigeria a lot needs to be done in areas of facilitation, operations and regulations. The government needs to work on creating an ecosystem that will make passengers reap the benefit of this mode of transport. Until that is done passengers will have to contend with system as it is.

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