The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), yesterday, told the travelling public to bear with the airlines, as multiple flight delays and cancellations were unavoidable.
The submission is a departure from the penchant to blame the airlines for poor customer services and threats of sanctions against culprits.
Indeed, the frequency of flight delays has lately worsened. The Consumer Protection Directorate (CPD) of the NCAA, last year reported that at least 3,049 flights were delayed in October 2019, with the bulk of the delays coming from domestic operations.
A total of 16,426 flights were delayed in the first half of 2019, out of the 30,043 flights executed by the airlines.
The Director, CPD – NCAA, Adamu Abdullahi, said flight delays and cancellations are unavoidable in the global aviation industry, and Nigeria could not be an exception.
However, Abdullahi said the apex regulatory body would ensure that the rights of the flying public are not trampled upon.
He said more often, the delays were due to operational and safety reasons like weather, mechanical failure, and movements of Very Important Personality (VIP), all of which the airlines have very little control over.
But where the airlines have failed to cater to the needs of affected passengers during disruptions, the NCAA had not relented to sanction the culprits.
He said: “Delays and flight cancellations are inevitable in the aviation industry. They just happen. The regulations realise that. That is why we looked at it, and we decided to ensure compensation to passengers. However, I will prefer to call it refreshments for the passengers, rather than compensation.
“If you delay a passenger for up to two hours, you have to give him or her some refreshments. You must have a way of compensating them until the flight is announced. There are many reasons for delays and cancellations. Most of them are safety based. When safety is involved, we don’t discuss comfort, and we even encourage airlines to delay or cancel flights whenever they have technical issues or weather-related issues.
“So, when an airline can prove to us that it delayed a flight due to safety, then, they are off the hook. Then that won’t attract sanctions. We don’t announce it when we sanction airlines because sanctions are like de-marketing for the airlines.
“They don’t like their sanctions being announced. We are not passenger service, rather consumer protection. Airlines, concessionaires, and handling companies are part of consumer services,” the director said.
Apparently in lieu of operators’ complaints about poor infrastructure, Abdullahi said the NCAA is working with the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), operator of the Murtala Muhammed Airport II (MM2), Bi-Courtney Aviation Services Limited, Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), and state-owned airport operators to reduce infrastructural challenges in the system.
Ironically, the same regulator had blamed the perennial flight delays and cancellations on poor use of capacity across the domestic routes.
The Acting Director-General of the NCAA, Capt. Abdullahi Sidi, had said the trend was unacceptable, and the domestic carriers especially, must begin to take proactive and realistic measures to tackle the delays.
He observed that most operators often put all their aircraft into service at once, to get the highest returns. But all their plans easily get scuttled when one of the operating aircraft goes out of service.