Thursday, November 7, 2013
AIRLINES, FLIGHT DELAYS AND PASSENGER COMPENSATIONS
It is often said that time is money. Indeed, this holds really true because time squandered can never be regained. Sometimes, persons who fail or neglect to keep appointments or be on time for an appointment may thereby miss opportunities of a lifetime. Sometimes, the missed opportunity might not be the fault of that person. It might in fact be the fault of some other third parties who do not think that considerations for their customers/clients should form part of the service they are supposed to render. Let’s go the route of the airlines on this one today.
Airlines usually require passengers to check in for flights booked at least 50 minutes before departure and oftentimes, we have heard stories of passengers missing their flights not necessarily because the plane had taken off before they got to the airport, but because they came in several minutes after they were supposed to have checked in. There have in fact been stories of a particular airline in Nigeria which allows itself to be so over-booked online that sometimes when you turn up at 1 pm for a flight that is supposed to depart at 1.40 pm, you will be told that you have arrived too late!
In such situations, the missed flight and having to make arrangements for another flight are the passenger’s punishments for “late coming”. While the passenger however gets some form of punishment for coming late or even sometimes with an over-booked flight, for not coming early enough, the situation is very different with the airlines when they, for whatever reasons, cancel or delay their flights. We understand that airlines can sometimes be forced by reasons beyond their control such as really bad weather conditions to delay their flights or even totally cancel such flights until further notice. However, even in such situations, airlines owe their customers, the passengers, the duty of promptly informing them of their proposed action and the reason(s) for such actions.
Where however, the reasons for delaying or cancelling a flight has nothing to do with, say, the weather condition, then, it is only fair that the airline compensates the passengers who had booked and paid for such a flight. Compensation should come not just in form of refunding the money already paid where necessary, it should also come in form of paying back more than the passengers paid in an attempt to mitigate whatever inconveniences the delay or cancellation might cause to them.
A responsible airline management, especially in climes where there the business is quite competitive will realise that offering some sort of compensations even without the existence of a law to compel them to do so, will keep the passengers returning to their airline. Of course it cannot be in the interest of any airline to make flight delays and cancellations a habit just because it provides some sort of compensations.
The Air Passengers Bill of Rights currently in the process of being passed in Nigeria while being a step in the right direction, has, in my view not yet adequately addressed the issue of compensation of passengers in the events of delays. For instance, the Bill is said to have provisions that passengers can demand for reimbursement of money paid where flights have been delayed for up to two hours or more. And where the delay is just an hour, the airline should make provisions for two free calls, emails and snacks for affected passengers. While admitting that this is better than nothing, it is nevertheless the case that some people cannot be adequately compensated in monetary terms for even a delay of one hour. It is therefore recommended that the provisions in the Bill should be more stringent and should make it mandatory for airlines to compensate passengers in cases of flights delayed for up to one hour or more and where cancelled, compensation should not just come in form of provision of accommodation and transport to and from the airport. The compensation should be much more than that. It could come in form of perhaps, a 30% discount and refund on the ticket already bought or the passengers’ future tickets. These measures will serve to keep the airlines on their toes and will definitely go a long way to reduce the frequency of flight delays and sometimes outright cancellations in many cases, with scant or non-existent regards for the convenience or situations of the passengers.
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