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That NCAA and Passengers Rights Bill

June 7, 2014

I recently stumbled on a poster online with the declaration by NCAA on the new passenger bill of rights as passed by the National Assembly and while a part of me was like this is good news, the good old pessimistic Nigerian side of my blood which always doubts every action of our Government, reminded me of all the nice laws we have that have just remained in the books just for the sake of it…well, would you blame me?

Now back to the subject matter. So, I remember several friends and colleagues who had experienced the long wait at the airports particularly for Aero Contractors and Medview Airlines and I used to boast and say that’s why I always fly Arik Air – I spoke too soon and Arik kept me for 7 hours on an Abuja – PHC flight. It wasn’t pleasant and the worst part of it is that nobody thought it worthy of even giving us any form of apology.

The service industry in Nigeria is the same across all sectors. I have been accused by a very good friend of mine of always generalising but this is one I am very sure of. Our service culture is so poor simply because we haven’t come to the realisation that the customer is king and who can decide to take their business elsewhere. Now, because we hardly have so many options, we are forced to swallow our pride and take in the rubbish served us and in cases where there are alternatives, as in the airline industry, the fear of air crashes makes us all run to virtually two airlines: Arik & Aero – well, that’s debate for another day.

This seeming fear of air crashes that makes us tend to fly mainly the Aeros and Ariks of this world leads me to ask: at what point do we say enough is too much? These airlines arbitrarily cancel, delay, merge and postpone flights indiscriminately! What about the issue of bags ending up on the wrong flight? This happens mainly when two aircrafts of the same company board at the same time or when it rains. We are still going through the archaic system of having to identify our bags prior to boarding the aircraft in so-called International airports like Port Harcourt!

During a recent trip from Lagos to PHC, an Aero Contractors flight scheduled for 2:00PM was suddenly delayed and did not take off until 5:30PM! The ground staff blamed a new check-in system that was introduced and I could only shake my head. There was nobody to enforce the delay or even ensure the passengers were adequately compensated in line with the new passenger bill of rights. A situation where a 30-min delay is announced after passengers have been waiting for 2 hours leads me to ask: where does the 30 minutes start from? Or is that a creative way to ensure passengers cannot be compensated?

While not condemning this good initiative, I think it’s nice to know someone has thought it wise to put something together but we should not stop there. We need to test this new law. It’s not about giving people a glass of water and that Agege cake that now tastes like stone in my mouth because I have had it so many times in the past. Aero contractors in the past before they joined the commercial line business had an impressive sandwich which made me look forward to the early morning flights – oh those days are gone! Focus Dagogo – focus!

It’s not about putting together nice packages – the type you find in societies where rules are expected to be enforced but it’s about facing reality and going all the way to ensure that these rules are enforced! The customer is the king and their rights need to be protected and we cannot do it by mere banners or jingles but by strengthening the institutions that enforce them with the right tools so that they can be effective and any party that falls foul should be sanction and very hard too!

Taking a cue from the NCC that applies severe penalties in the form of fines to the GSM operators for performing below the agreed targets, the NCAA should develop appropriate mechanisms to measure the performance of the airlines, monitor their performance against set targets and apply appropriate sanctions where they are not meeting up. These statistics should then be published monthly so we can all see it. Until companies become accountable in one shape, form or size, we would never see accountability by any of them. We are waiting…

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