Airlines take joy out of air travel

Air travel on its own is a hectic experience; even when everything goes according to plan. So when there is the added challenge of unexpected delays or cancellations, it starts to feel more like ‘living through hell’.
In Nigeria, airlines are quick to cancel domestic flights on the grounds of factors such as extreme weather, mechanical malfunctions and workers strike actions, and this continually throws the plans of thousands of travellers in the country into disarray.
Arik Air, described as Nigeria’s biggest airline by aircraft size is most guilty of this and the aviation regulatory body, the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has decided to look the other way, pretending as if all is well with the country aviation sector.
It is not as if other airlines do not cancel flights when there is bad weather or technical problems, but the way Arik has carried on leaves much to be desired. In the past two months, the airline has recorded more cancellations, delays, without a reasonable reason other than the excuse that aviation fuel is scare. That is not true. Is aviation fuel scarcity limited to Arik Airline ALONE? Is there more to it than the alleged deception of scarcity of JET A1?
A friend of mine, Stella Din Jacob had a harrowing experience in the hands of officials of the carrier when her visiting aged parents were to travel back to Jos. From flight delay, it eventually turned to cancellation. Their Arik flight scheduled to depart at noon was delayed till 6pm when the flight was eventually cancelled.
All efforts to get reason for the cancellation could not yield fruit as the officials whom Jacob described as arrogant and rude could only come up with the excuse of fuel scarcity.
Just last week, a similar scenario played out where over a hundred passengers were left stranded by the carrier. kano bound passengers who had been issued with boarding passes got the shock of their lives when the flight originally scheduled to depart at 3pm was rescheduled for 9pm. At exactly 9pm, the carrier announced outright cancellation of the flight. Passengers were furious as some of them left with another carrier for Kano. Others had to go back home or to their hotels.
Incessant flight cancellations remain a challenge for airlines and demands for compensations by flyers seldom pitch distraught passengers against erring airlines. Albeit Nigeria regulatory authority, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) efforts to ameliorate and mediate in issues as they arise, passengers said there is more ground to cover by all those involved.
Passengers’satisfaction, no doubt, remains the basic impetus that holds the key to the successes of any airline business.   When they complain of any unpleasant experience or ill-treatment upon the purchase of a flight ticket (s) until they arrive at their destinations, they are guests of the airline and expect to be accorded due courtesies.
Flight cancellations, especially one too many, be it mechanical or otherwise, rude flight attendants, poor in-flight services, delays and leaving passengers in the dark without information as well numerous other bad deals is a pointer that the airline may well be on its way to extinction or kiss the canvass if passengers’ complaints are ignored.
A stakeholder once said “Because the airlines know that most passengers are not aware that they have a right to complain and get financial compensation when they don’t get the right services, the airlines tend to get away with the unscrupulous act, violate passengers’ right and subject them to physical and financial trauma.”
This is inspite of the NCAA regulations that spell out penalties for specific offences by airlines regarding flight delays and cancellations.
Wole Shadare