NCAA said the summon was in response to several complaints received by the Directorate of Consumer Protection (DCP) of the agency from passengers, who were scheduled for Arik Air’s combined service to Freetown and Banjul on Friday, May 2, 2014.
The flight scheduled for 8a.m. was initially delayed till 10a.m. and as passengers were getting ready to board the flight, Arik announced a rescheduling of the flight to 12p.m.
To the annoyance of the passengers, the flight was again moved to 3p.m. with verbal notification from the airline officials.
At 3p.m., there was another announcement that the flight had been further delayed for one hour “due to operational reasons.’’
At this point even the passengers that had endured the delays in silence became restive and went berserk when the flight was again delayed till 11:35p.m.
Before the final reschedule of the flight, the agency said officials of its Consumer Protection Directorate who were on hand, ordered the airline to serve the passengers light refreshment at 6: 07p.m.
“When it became clear that the flight would not depart at 21:35hrs, the passengers who had become enraged, took over the boarding gates of the airline’s departures, thereby preventing the commencement of boarding of another Arik Air service, Flight W3 103 to Johannesburg,” explained a statement from NCAA, signed by its general manager, public affairs.
The agency disclosed that it became very difficult for its officers to calm the passengers who were poised to violently force Arik to abandon its other flights before the flight to two West African countries eventually departed at 11:46p.m.
NCAA said another Arik Flight, W3 792 scheduled service from Ibadan to Abuja was similarly delayed at Ibadan airport on Saturday, May 3, as the flight which was supposed to depart at 3:15p.m. was delayed till 6:25p.m.
“Arik Air officials said calls were earlier put across to all passengers on the service to inform them of the rescheduled time of departure, a claim hotly disputed by the passengers,” NCAA said.
It stated further that all attempts by the NCAA’s Consumer Protection Officer to prevail on the airline officials to provide refreshment for the passengers were declined.
“Consequent upon the above, NCAA has summoned the management of Arik Air to explain the circumstances that led to the long delay of the service. In addition, to determine whether the airline complied with the requirements of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Regulations (NCARs) in the treatment of the passengers on these flights,” NCAA said.
The agency assured Nigerians that as the regulatory body for aviation, it would continue to ensure that the safety and comfort of air travellers were not compromised by any airline or other aviation service providers.
When contacted, Arik Air said it was yet to receive any letter of summon from the NCAA.
Meanwhile, aviation unions yesterday said they would embark on a two-day national warning strike over the recent merger plan by the federal government of some agencies in the industry.
The unions are the Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN), the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE) and the National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers (NAAPE).
The federal government had planned to merge the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NIMET) and the Nigeria Airspace Management Agency with the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA).
The National President of ATSSSAN, Mr. Benjamin Okewu, said the unions were currently meeting to take their stands, confirming that the National Executive Council meeting of the unions would be scheduled for sometime in May.
“ATSSSAN has concluded plans to get the endorsement of the strike from all its organs as its National Administrative Council Meeting and the National Executive Council meeting are scheduled for May.
“We have put our members on red alert, in preparation for the two-day warning strike aimed at paralysing the country’s aviation sector,” he said.
Okewu said the unions vowed to close down airports across the country as the warning strike would be the first of its kind in the country.
He, however, said the unions have written to the National Assembly, the presidency and the National Security Adviser (NSA) over the planned strike.
The president added that the unions have also itemised reasons why government should not go ahead with its plan on the merger.