The Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) has appealed to passengers to exercise some restraint in expressing their displeasure or frustrations during flight delays or cancellation.
This is because according to AON, the airline, within the prevailing circumstances could be complying with a safety procedure, obeying a regulation or facing certain difficulties beyond its immediate control.
It added that, airlines operating in Nigeria are forced to operate in an environment that is wrought with infrastructure deficiencies that are highly disruptive to normal schedule reliability and on time performance.
The body says, resorting to violent behavior does no one any good, adding that, such occurrences are not peculiar to Nigeria and grievances can be passed in a civil manner.
While apologizing to passengers for delays and cancelation of flights, the AON President, Alhaji Abdulmunaf Yunusa frown at the recent attackby some unruly passengers on staff of Max Air and the wanton destruction of the airline’s properties due to a flight delay.
In a statement condemning the action of the unruly passengers of Max Air, he says, the unfortunate development has further heightens their deepest concern and worry over the increasingly deplorable state of security and the rising threat to the lives of airline staff and their properties at Nigerian airports.
He threatened that, “should a similar occurrence like the unfortunate case with Max Air happen to any of our member airlines going forward, AON may be forced to have a rethink on how to respond in such circumstances”.
“The airport vicinity is a sensitive and sacrosanct environment where people are not allowed to behave in callous and uncontrollable manner. A situation where passengers are allowed to have access into sensitive restricted areas of the airport and attack airline staff or prevent a plane from departing to other destinations because a particular flight is delayed or cancelled puts the country in a bad light in the international community”.
The AON President lists some prevalent causes of delays and cancellations to include: unavailability and rising cost of Jet A1 (which today costs above N585 per litre in Lagos, N607 in Abuja and Port Harcourt, and N685 in Kano), inadequate parking space for aircraft on the apron and sometimes leading to ground accidents.
Others are: inadequate screening and exit points at departure, inefficient passenger access and facilitation, natural and unforeseen circumstances such as weather and catastrophic failures (e.g. bird strikes & component failures), and restrictions caused by sunset airports among others.
Alhaji Yunusa further went on to draw attention to certain aspects of the Nigeria Civil Aviation Regulations, NCARs as its relate to the passenger rights and responsibilities.
“It is also necessary on put on record that while passengers are entitled to their rights, they also have some obligations and responsibilities. For instance, Part 19 of “Nig. CARs 2012, Vol. II highlights some rights and responsibilities of passengers”.
Item six (6) of the NCAA’s Notice on Passenger Obligations To Airlines/Service Providers requires passengers to: “Be of good behavior at all stages of their journey,” adding that “Airlines and agencies have a zero policy for unruly behavior.”
The notice goes further to state as follows that:
i. 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 behaviours.
ii. Passengers are prohibited from interfering with flight crew and aircraft attendants.
iii. 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.
Part 17.92.1 of the Nig. CARs 2012, Vol. II states that: “Any passenger who becomes unruly at the airport terminal or on board an Aircraft commits an offence.” Part 17.92.2(c)(d)(e)(f) defines the word “unruly” as:
(c) Fighting or other disorderly conduct on board an aircraft or at the terminal building;
(d) Any conduct/act constituting a nuisance to other passengers;
(e) Disobedience of lawful instructions issued by the aircraft commander, flight crew, cabin attendants, check-in staff and/or security screening staff;
(f) Any conduct that endangers or is likely to endanger the safety of flight operations;
Part 17.92.3 states further that: “Where any passenger becomes unruly on board an aircraft or at the terminal building, the aircraft commander or airport authority shall take necessary measures including restraint where necessary:
(a) to protect the safety of the aircraft, terminal building or of persons or property therein, or
(b) to maintain good order and discipline on board or at the terminal building; and
(c) to enable him deliver such person to competent authorities.
AON therefore called on the Federal government through the Ministry of Aviation and the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria to beef up security at the nation’s airports and ensure that the lives of airline staff and their properties are lawfully protected.