Traveling by air or using air transport services confers certain rights. But it also comes with some responsibilities. Among the main ones are:
1. The right to the full value for your money
2. The right to compensation for flight cancellation, delays, damaged/loss baggage and denied boarding for reasons other than technical, weather conditions, air traffic control restrictions, security risks and industrial disputes that affect the operation of the flight.
3. The right to book and confirm tickets with an airline of your choice.
4. The right to the provision of a conducive airport environment before, during, and after flights.
5. The right to seek redress for all irregularities during your flight.
6. The right to timely feedback in respect of matters/complaints lodged with service providers.
7. The right to be fully informed about flight status.
8. The right to be treated with respect and dignity irrespective of race or physical condition.
• PASSENGERS BILL OF RIGHT IN NIGERIA
The coming into force of the Consumer Protection Regulations is to enlighten airline passengers on the Regulation the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) promulgated for the protection of the rights of air travelers. The rights are drawn from Part 19 of “Nig. CARs 2012, Vol. II.”
All airlines, foreign and domestic, are subject to the provisions of the Regulations which prescribes minimum rights and duties of passengers and the obligations of airlines.
The Regulation shall apply on the occurrence of any of the following:
• No-show and Overbooking of flights
• Denied boarding against the will of a passenger (Involuntary)
• Delayed scheduled flights
• Cancelled scheduled flights
• Claims relating to delayed, damaged and lost baggage could be enforced under the provisions of the Montreal Convention 1999 which has been domesticated in the Civil Aviation Act 2006.
• FLIGHT DELAY COMPENSATION
A flight delay is when an airline flight takes off and/or lands later than its scheduled time.
If the flight was cancelled and you take a replacement flight then that flight only needs to be over two hours later than the arrival time or the original flight in order to get compensation.
The airline must provide food and drink appropriate to the time of day (this is often in the form of a voucher) and a means of communicating your delay or a refund of the cost of essential calls.
For overnight delays, the airline must provide hotel accommodation and transport to reach it – or to return home. When there’s a major disruption, airline staff may not be able to assist in booking hotels. In such cases, you can make your own arrangements and claim the cost back. But a passenger should not expect a full refund for an expensive hotel unless there’s no alternative.
• How to claim compensation for Domestic Airline Flight delay
Generally, the right of a passenger to compensation for a flight delay will depend on the length of the delay; and the reason for the delay/cancellation.
Under the Nigerian law, by virtue of Part 19 of the NCAA Consumer Protection Regulations, passengers on Domestic flights are guaranteed certain levels of compensation if they are denied boarding or their flight is delayed, or their flight is cancelled.
You can claim from 25% of the ticket price as compensation based on the length of your flight delay, and the circumstances around the delay.
• It must be for a flight departing and landing within the domestic territory of Nigeria
• Passenger must have a confirmed reservation on the flight that is delayed
• Passenger must have presented himself for check in at the stipulated time, and if no time stipulated, then not later than 1 hour prior to flight departure time.
1. Compile your documentation – to make a claim a passenger will need his ticket or booking number, date of the flight, name of the airline, and if possible the reason given by the airline for the flight delay or cancellation. This information forward with a claim letter detailing the passenger experience with the airline (flight delayed or cancelled), and the inconvenience it caused.
3. Contact the Airline – Different airlines have different procedures for claiming. Some accept complaints via email, and passenger needs to send a written claims letter to others.
4. If the claim for compensation is rejected by the airline, passenger may either choose to accept the rejection, or make a further complaint to Consumer Protection Directorate of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA).
4. When complaining to the NCAA, passenger will need to include; the details of his or her initial complaint letter, the rejection letter received from the airline, and a cover letter to the NCAA asking them to review the rejection by the airline.
5. If the Consumer Protection Directorate of the NCAA rejects your review, passenger may refer the matter to the Consumer Protection Council. Provide them with all the information on the complaint so far, and ask them to review the decisions and compel the airline to award you compensation.
6. Finally, if the CPC fails to uphold your complaint, you may engage a lawyer and decide to take the matter to court.
However, passenger may at any step within stipulated process decide to go to court. The above listed steps are where passenger prefers to settle such matter amicably. Unnecessary or reckless delay or cancellation of flight by airline itself could amount to a breach of contract, which the court maybe called upon to determine.
Meanwhile, claiming compensation for delayed or cancelled of international flights follows different similar procedure.
• INTERNATIONAL FLIGHTS CANCELLATIONS COMPENSATION
European Passenger Rights Regulation EC 261/2004 guarantees compensation and care for a flight cancellation for passengers that are departing from EU airports or arriving at EU airports with a EU carrier.
For the EU law to apply, passenger flight must have been schedule to depart or arrived from the UK, European Union (EU), Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland. Based on certain conditions, passengers are entitled to up to €600 for a flight delayed beyond 4 hours. In case of total cancellation, in addition of the monetary compensation, the airline must pay for hotel accommodation if an overnight stay required and provide alternative flight.
However, if extraordinary circumstances occurred, such as a case of war or civil unrest or strike or general grounding of flights by authorities or security issues or extreme weather conditions or medical emergency on board or crew issues, the airline will be exempted from paying the refund. Additionally, if passengers are informed of the flight cancellation 14 days or more in advance, they will not be entitled to cancelled flight compensation.
It is noteworthy that the first thing to do when your flight is delayed or cancelled is to contact the airline – this needs to be the airline operating the flight, even if the passenger booked it through another airline. The airline’s customer services department will usually help. Where the airline customer service is becoming unhelpful, it is important for the passenger to immediately report the issue to the consumer protection department of NCAA (in a case of domestic flight) to file complaint or seek a legal advice for possible legal remedies.
Additionally, Nigerian passengers are also entitled to claim compensation for any delay occasioned by any European carrier departing Nigeria for Europe or for delays occasioned by any international flights leaving any of the EU airports to Nigeria.
Written by Corporate & Commercial Law Team at Resolution Law Firm, Lagos, Nigeria