November 27, 2022

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FULL STORY: Why Emeka Ugwuonye is Suing Air Peace

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FULL STORY: Why Emeka Ugwuonye is Suing Air Peace
FULL STORY: Why Emeka Ugwuonye is Suing Air Peace

… His 10 Demands

The social media in particular is awash with reports of planned legal action by Emeka Ugwuonye, President/CEO of Eculaw Group, against Air Peace Airline Limited.

The news has prompted reactions from passengers who have been victims of flight delays and cancellations by airlines, not just Air Peace.

But that hasn’t stopped Ugwuonye from officially communicating his grievances to Air Peace, and making a list of 10 demands to be met by the airline if he must shelve his plans for litigation.

THE FULL LETTER

31st January, 2022

The Managing Director
Air Peace Airline Limited
25, Sobo Arobiodu Street
GRA – Ikeja
Lagos
Tel: 0803 210 3091

Delivered via: DHL

Dear Managing Director:

COMPLAINT AND DEMAND

Please permit me to address you concerning the mistreatment I suffered in the hands of Air Peace management and staff on Thursday, 27th January, 2022.

On the said date, I was to travel from Abuja to Lagos. I was to fly back to Lagos via your 4:25pm flight. I got to the airport by 2pm. At the Air Peace check-in counter, I was told by Air Peace staff that my flight had been rescheduled for 8:10pm the same day. The staff who attended to me did not give me any reason for the change of schedule. Instead, she offered me a business class seat on an Air Peace flight leaving within two hours, if I were willing to pay N40,000 to upgrade my ticket. I felt disappointed, but I had no choice than to wait. I checked in my one-piece luggage and was issued a boarding pass showing a departure time of 8:10pm.

I had to wait at the departure lounge for the 8:10pm flight. The rescheduling of my flight caused me to cancel a meeting I was to have with my staff in Lagos by 7pm that evening. At 8:10pm, Air Peace did not call for boarding. I became anxious and wondered what that meant. By 9pm, there was an announcement that my flight had been moved again, now to 10:00pm. At this point, I tried to return to the city of Abuja, as I felt it would be too late for me to be in the streets of Lagos by midnight in order to travel from Murtala Mohammed Airport to my residence in Ikoyi. However, Air Peace staff could not retrieve my luggage because they had flown it to Lagos on some flight that departed Abuja to Lagos between 2pm and 8pm. So, I was forced to stay back at the Abuja airport, as I could not go back into the city without my luggage.

By 10:00pm, there was yet another announcement indicating that the departure time for my flight had been moved again, this time to 11pm. Finally, my flight took off by 11:43pm and we arrived Lagos by 12:33am. I spent over an hour at the Murtala Mohammed Airport looking for my luggage which arrived Lagos in an earlier flight. I finally made it out of the arrival lounge and into an area where I could find a driver that would take me to Ikoyi. That took quite some time, as the few driver still at the airport all refused to go to Ikoyi out of concern for their safety. I finally found a driver who charged me N15,000 and I made it home by 3:00am.

Enema Ugwuonye

In the end, I felt deeply hurt and humiliated by your staff in the manner they handle my trip. It was only later that I began to hear that the reason for delaying my flight for 8 hours was due to weather. I did not believe this to be the case because my luggage was flown to Lagos during the same time period that weather was said to have prevented all flights from Abuja to Lagos. I was compelled by my ordeal to post on my Facebook Forum, (Movement for Peaceful Change) the experience I had with your Airline. I was shocked by the reactions of the public to my post.

Upon investigation as to why I was not aware that my 4:25pm flight had been rescheduled, I discovered that indeed a message was sent to me by Air Peace. The message was sent by 2:17am on 27th of January stating that the 4:25pm flight on 27th January was being rescheduled to 6:25pm (different from 8:10pm I was told when I got to the airport). It is very dubious that Air Peace knew by 2:17am that there would be a weather problem by 4:25pm. Indeed, the 2:17am message stated: “Dear esteemed passenger, due to operational reasons, we regret to announce the time change in your flight programme. Flight 7135, Abuja to Lagos for today, 27th January, 2022 will now depart at 6:25pm. We truly regret the impact of this sudden time change on your travel plans. Please bear with us…” That shows dishonesty in the subsequent excuses of weather conditions. Essentially, Air Peace had its capricious and selfish reasons for changing the flight time, and it lied about it.

My best assessment of what happened was that Air Peace has a practice of booking passengers for flights without any commitment to the passengers’ preferred departure or arrival time. It gathers all those travelling on a particular day and a given city, and then begin to assign them to different flight schedules in a manner to ensure that each flight was as full as possible, regardless of the passengers’ preferred schedule. Air Peace passengers fly not when they want to fly, but when Air Peace wants them to fly. This is a very primitive and underhanded practice in airline booking. All those excuses about weather or operational reasons seem to be mere pretext to cover up this bizarre practice.

Whereas I had thought that what happened to me was an exceptional event, on the contrary, I was inundated with cries and complaints from other travelers who had similar or worse experience from Air Peace. The sheer number of these unhappy travelers and the agonizing tales they had to tell left a very profound impression on me. I became quite disturbed the more I realized the implications of what happened to me. I perceived a culture of impunity, not just within Air Peace, but equally, in the manner other airlines treated travelers. I was left with no choice than to seek redress in a court of law unless Air Peace would agree to the following demands:

(1) That Air Peace tender a public apology to its customers who have been similarly hurt and mistreated. Such apology should come from the top management of Air Peace. It should admit wrongdoing and show genuine remorse, and promise to improve. Air Peace has to understand that the people are not stupid. They did not buy the general weather excuse. It was too convenient for Air Peace to invoke that excuse whenever it liked, believing that the travelers wouldn’t know any better.

(2) That Air Peace agree to observe the following standards when dealing with customer complaints:

(a) Where a flight is delayed beyond 3 hours, Air Peace shall:
(i) offer the traveler the option of rebooking his flight to another day at no further fees or costs, or

(ii) rebook him in a flight with any other airline that is departing to his destination. Example: If an Air Peace flight originally scheduled for 2pm cannot take off by 5pm, Air Peace should place the affected passenger in, say, Dana flight to the person’s destination, without any additional fee from the passenger, or

(iii) offer the affected traveler a full refund of what he paid for the ticket.

NOTE: It is not fair that when an airline has an excuse to delay flights, it will be only the passenger that suffers it. The airline should bear the cost of such weather-induced delay. As it is now, Air Peace loses nothing if a delay keeps people at the airport for 10 hours. Air Peace still makes the profit it would have made if there was no such delay. So, Air Peace has no incentive to avoid delays because the affected passenger has absolutely no option than to wait or forfeit his ticket fee. But by refunding passengers their money, Air Peace will have an incentive to avoid delays. The passenger should not be the only person to lose each time there is a weather problem. The airline should bear that loss or at least share in it.

(3) Where Air Peace notices that there will be a delay need to reschedule a flight, it must notify the passenger honestly and reasonably.

(4) If, as a result of more than 3-hours delay, a passenger arrives at his destination airport after 10pm, Air Peace shall provide a vehicle to convey the person to his final destination or shall pay for a bed and breakfast for that person in a hotel near to the airport. Leaving a traveler stranded at the airport or risking his life trying to get home by midnight in such circumstance is wrong and unacceptable.

(5) Air Peace shall commit to providing further training for its staff that deal directly with customers to reduce the humiliation that passengers have reported to have endured in the hands of Air Peace staff.

(6) Air Peace shall commit to establishing its own claims department with capacity to effectively treat passenger complaints. At present, Air Peace complaint unit either does not exist or it is poorly staff and equipped. Hence, complaints are not attended to in an effective or responsive manner.

(7) If a passenger arrives at his destination other than his city of residence, while his luggage was left behind or mistakenly sent to a different destination, Air Peace shall offer a reasonable amount of money to enable the passenger to purchase toiletries and clothes to wear until his luggage arrives within a reasonable time, not longer than 48 hours.

(8) If a passenger’s luggage is lost by Air Peace, it shall make an offer to pay compensation for the lost luggage within two weeks.

(9) If a passenger mistakenly pays twice for the same ticket, Air Peace shall refund the excess payment within 24 hours.

(10) In the event that an altercation between a passenger and staff of Air Peace is video-recorded by the passenger or a third party, Air Peace shall treat such video recording as valid evidence that belongs to the owner or maker of the video recording, and not try to destroy such evidence.

All the above ten demands can be met in the initial stage by a public statement and declaration of principles and objectives by Air Peace Management, and then followed up with concrete measures within a reasonable time.

We believe that Air Peace is the leader of the commercial aviation industry in Nigeria. It is in a strong position to implement these standards, and they will be followed by other airlines in Nigeria. Once there is a commitment to these reforms and improvements in standards of passenger treatment, We shall not proceed with litigation. However, if Air Peace rejects these demands, we shall be left with no option than to pursue a class action lawsuit against Air Peace. And for that purpose, we have commenced the process of preparing a register of victims of Air Peace. Thank you for your consideration of my letter.

Yours truly,

Ephraim Emeka Ugwuonye, Esquire
Founder and CEO

(C) FIJ

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