Air travellers in Nigeria often have their rights violated with impunity by airlines. Unfortunately, they suffer in silence and never seek redress because they do not know that they have the legal rights to do so. Some who know about the existence of legal protection consider it a waste of time to test the law. These factors contribute majorly to the lack of progress in terms of consumer protection in the aviation sector.
Indeed, the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) promulgated a regulation for the protection of air travellers. The regulation, which was gazetted in September 2012, became law in November 2012. The law known as the Nigeria Civil Aviation Regulations (CARs), deals with various aspects of the aviation industry. However, Vol. 2, Part 19 (CARs 2012, Vol II, 19) of this legislation deals specifically with consumer protection. This legislation is the legal basis for consumers to seek redress when flights are delayed or cancelled outright; when luggage are pilfered or lost; when boarding is denied on account of overbooking; among many other rights violations.
However, it is recognised that rights come with responsibilities. So the law also provides for the responsibilities of passengers. The law provides not only for obligations of airlines to passengers but also for the rights and responsibilities of passengers. The law can thus be applied by airlines in cases where passengers fail to discharge their responsibilities. All domestic and foreign airlines operating in the country are subject to the provisions of this regulation. Passengers may also lodge complaints with the NCAA’s Consumer Protection Directorate on any infringements upon their rights.
Passengers’ Rights and Responsibilities
- The right to the full value for your money
- 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.
- The right to book and confirm tickets with an airline of your choice.
- The right to the provision of a conducive airport environment before, during, and after flights.
- The right to seek redress for all irregularities during your flight.
- The right to timely feedback in respect of matters/complaints lodged with service providers.
- The right to be fully informed about flight status.
- The right to be treated with respect and dignity irrespective of race or physical condition.
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.
Passengers’ Obligations to Airlines/Service Providers
- Check-in on time. It is advised to check-in two hours before boarding for domestic flights and three hours for International flights.
- Acquaint themselves with the terms and conditions attached to the ticket as well as asking questions appropriately.
- In addition to photo identification, passengers on international travels are requested to present passport/ visas or entry/ exit travel documents as well as health or any other document(s) required by the applicable regulations.
- A passenger may be refused carriage if she/he fails to comply with applicable laws and regulations.
- Mandatorily undergo security and safety checks, recommended by the Government/Airport authorities as well as those authorized by the carrier.
- Be of good behaviour at all stages of their journey. Airlines and agencies have a zero policy for unruly behaviour.
- All airport and airline staff deserves to be treated with respect and courtesy. An airline reserves the right to deny boarding/ disembark a passenger for unruly behaviour.
- Passengers are prohibited from interfering with flight crew and aircraft attendants.
- Offensive, disorderly conduct such as physical assault, verbal abuse or sexual harassment of any airline or service provider staff will attract severe punishment in addition to fines or jail term.
- Turn off all cell-phones in flight. While safety is the paramount reason, usage of cell phones in-flight is also discourteous to fellow travellers. Passengers who fail to comply may be fined or disembarked from the flight.
- Report any issues, damaged/lost/delayed/pilfered baggage at the airline office or designated airline official before leaving the airport.