PASSENGERS on Nigerian domestic carrier, Dana Air, were stranded for at least 14 hours at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Friday, as three scheduled flights by the airline were delayed.
“No apology was tendered. We were left to our fate. They showed no concern after some of us paid about N100,000 for the flight,” one of the passengers, Atsenokhai Aloy, told The ICIR.
Among the abandoned passengers were pregnant women, nursing mothers and their babies, he said.
Aloy had thought of arriving early in Lagos Friday evening to sleep in his home, but he was abandoned with scores of other passengers by Dana Air at Abuja Airport lobby till 8am Saturday, when the flight conveying him and others finally arrived.
He said by 1am on Saturday, an aircraft landed and picked passengers that were supposed to fly at 11am the previous day.
He said he had arrived at the airport and checked in before 6pm on Friday. But getting to the departure hall, he met scores of other passengers who were supposed to have left for Lagos but stranded.
“I slept in the airport waiting for a flight!! Dana air kept passengers including nursing mothers, pregnant women, and children in the airport from 7pm yesterday till this time I am typing this message (Saturday morning).
“We were all checked in and given our boarding pass. But there was no aircraft to convey us! From 7pm yesterday till now, myself and several other passengers are all seated in the departure hall of Abuja Airport waiting for the aircraft that will take us to Lagos.
“I have heard of delayed flights, but never in my life did I ever imagine that I will sleep in the airport waiting endlessly for a flight that no one knows when it will arrive.
“At some point, three different sets of passengers bound for Lagos were all waiting. There was no aircraft and Dana wasn’t ready to give us any sensible explanation. I am sure they know that there won’t be consequences for this unbelievable service failure. After all, this is Nigeria…
“By 1am, one aircraft landed. It picked passengers that were supposed to fly at 11am yesterday. Passengers scheduled for 11am flight on Friday morning eventually left by 1am on Saturday morning. I was scheduled for 7pm and I am still here. I have been in the airport for over 10hrs!!!
“No apologies from anyone, no food offered, no empathy from the airline, just nothing! This is the height of incompetence, insensitivity, and extreme wickedness. The ministry of aviation must do something about Dana airline to protect Nigerians. We can’t be treated so shabbily in our own country without consequences.
“An airline that doesn’t have planes to fly passengers must not be selling tickets. People have different reasons for travelling and you can’t just hold them hostage. I can’t begin to imagine what others have missed,” he lamented in a message he sent to ICIR.
Efforts by The ICIR to get reaction of the airline were futile, as the company’s spokesperson Okwudili Ezenwe, refused to pick calls put across to him by our reporter. He also failed to respond to text message sent to him on the allegation.
Like some of its contemporaries, Dana Airline is notorious for delaying flights and disappointing its passengers.
On Friday, July 12, 2019, the airline failed to convey its passengers from the Abuja airport to Port-Harcourt, with the stranded passengers alleging there was no flight.
On May 26, 2016 pilots working with Dana Air embarked on strike, forcing the airline’s passengers scheduled for flight that day to be stranded across the country.
The pilots reportedly embarked on strike to compel the airline’s management to pay backlog of salaries and other entitlements they were owed.
Simillarly, an aircraft belonging to Dana Air skidded off the runway and was partly damaged while landing at the Port Harcourt Airport in Rivers state on February 20, 2018. After 24 hours, passengers on the aircraft complained they had not gotten their luggage.
Also, on February 8, 2018, the airline blamed its passengers for one of its doors that fell off while taxiing at the Abuja airport. The flight was from Lagos.
Reports indicated that passenger on the aircraft vehemently denied allegation by the airline that a passenger tampered with the aircraft doors.
On June 3, 2012, 153 passengers died in a Lagos-bound aircraft, operated by Dana Air.
The flight took off in Abuja and crashed into a two-storey building at Ishaga, killing all its passengers.
The Nigerian government punished the airline by suspending its operating license on June 5, 2012 before it was later restored in September same year.
The government again, through the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), withdrew the licence over the 2012 crash on October 6, 2013, claiming it was to enable it conclude investigation into the unfortunate crash.
Nigerians are usually in mad rush to travel during Yuletide season.
The rush results in skyrocketing ticket prices, delay and cancellation of flights. Prices of tickets have been unusually high this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Airline employees usually use the period to make brisk money by exploiting passengers through illegal hike in price of tickets, use of touts to offer unsolicited aid among others.
It is customary, however, that an airline apologizes to its passengers whenever it fails to airlift them as scheduled.
Global standard practice requires such an airline to feed and accommodate the passengers.
A senior official of NCAA who spoke on condition of anonymity with The ICIR said: “The global standard requires that any airline that cancels or delays its flight must provide its passengers accommodation and feeding where the passenger is already at the airport for his or her trip. But, this doesn’t happen because of politics and deception.
“The foreign airlines are doing it here, but the local ones are not doing it. It is just because of politics.
“In other climes, the operators can apologize that the aircraft is not in good condition. You don’t expect the airline to fly an aircraft that is not good. So, the airline will accommodate and feed the passengers within that period.
The ICIR reports that passengers who experience disservice from airlines can claim compensation.
Part 19 of the NCAA Consumer Protection Regulations provides certain degree of compensation for travellers if their flights are delayed are cancelled.
Options are also available for claiming this compensation, which range from refund of at least 25 percent of ticket price and more, depending on the hours the flight is delayed or number of days the cancellation takes.
A passenger making this claim must have confirmed reservation on the airline and must have presented himself for check in by the airline.
Getting compensated in this sense requires the aggrieved passenger to do a letter of complaint containing the ticket booking number, date of the flight and name of the airline.
The passenger will detail his experience with the airline, response of the airline to the delay, the inconvenience caused by the passenger by the delay and will forward the complaint to the airline.
Should the airline fail to offer satisfactory response, the passenger can forward the complaint to the Consumer Protection Directorate of the NCAA.
The protest can be taken further to the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Council (FCCPC).
Even if the FCCPC fails to do justice, the passenger can proceed to court to seek redress.
The court option can be taken at any point the passenger did his complaint. It is his exclusive right.
Functional airports in Nigeria usually enjoy surge in activities following disasters that usually characterize the use of the highways. Main challenges with the use of Nigerian highways are poor state of the roads, abduction, killing and attacks by gunmen or bandits.
The ICIR had on December 17 published a report captioned: Yuletide: Flashpoints for abduction, crashes on Nigerian highways