Four intending travellers have sued Arik Air Limited for alleged indiscriminate cancellation of their Abuja-Yola flight without notification on October 22, 2020.
The plaintiffs – Sadiq Usman, Luqman Hussain, Muhammad Danazumi, and Zubair Usman – accused the airline of breach of contract, and violation of their rights as well as certain provisions of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) regulations.
They filed their suit at the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory in Abuja on December 31, 2020, demanding over N6.7 million as damages, refund of the fare they paid for the wasted flight tickets, and cost of prosecuting the suit.
They stated in their statement of claim contained in their suit that they bought air tickets from Arik Air for Flight W3 838 which was set to depart Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport, Abuja on October 22, 2020, at 11:15 a.m. and arrive Yola International Airport, at 12:35 p.m. of the same day.
The plaintiffs, however, expressed regrets that they arrived the airline’s check-in counter at about 9 a.m., more than two hours ahead of the scheduled flight, but no one was available to attend to them.
Mr Usman, who stated that he was to attend a wedding in Yola, averred that he was at the check-in counter of the airline till 12 p.m. “when he discovered that the flight had been cancelled, with no correspondence of any sort made by the defendant (Arik) to him in respect of the cancelled flight and no notice whatsoever had been given to him in advance about the cancellation.”
The plaintiffs’ joint statement of claim added, “That till 11:15hrs when the flight was scheduled to depart, there were no announcements for boarding and he had received no notices from the defendant at any point in time with reasons for the cancellation, after it was confirmed from the airport authorities that the flight was indeed cancelled.
“That the first plaintiff (Usman) paid the cash sum of N26, 391.00 (twenty six thousand three hundred and ninety one naira)for the purchase of the said flight ticket as well as the evidence of payment issued.
“That as at the time of filling this suit, there is no communication whatsoever from Defendant as to the cancelation of the flight or reimbursement of the amount spent.”
Mr Hussain, who narrated a similar ordeal, also stated that the check-in desk of the airline remained unmanned two hours after the scheduled departure time, and that “there were no announcements heralding the arrival of flight W3 838 to Yola.”
The second plaintiff stated that he had paid N51,525 for the flight ticket with the evidence of payment issued.
While the third plaintiff, Mr Danazumi, a lawyer, stated that he paid N74,772 for the flight ticket, the fourth plaintiff, Mr Usman, who stated that his scheduled trip to Yola was primarily to facilitate his mother’s medical emergencies and to attend a friend’s wedding ceremony, said he paid N51,525 to purchase the ticket.
Aside Mr Usman, whose ticket was for a one-way trip, the three other plaintiffs stated that their tickets were for return trips by which the airline was meant to return them to Abuja at different times on October 24, 25, and 27.
The plaintiffs stated that a few hours before the cancellation of the flight, Arik Air till sold tickets to intended passengers, including one Mustapha Sulaiman.
According to them, on the said October 22, other airlines were operating, and “in fact Max-Air took off to Yola at about 9:00 hours or thereabout”.
The plaintiffs who claimed that they snapped pictures of Arik’s unmanned check-in counters on October 22, 2020, stated that they tried to report the situation to NCAA, “but there was no one on seat to lodge the complaint.”
They added that “after waiting for about two hours after the scheduled departure time, it was clear the flight was cancelled.”
The plaintiffs stated that the Arik Air flight was the last flight to Adamawa and that there was no other flight available for them to fly on Friday and Saturday (October 23 and 24, 2020).
They stated that they lost N135,000 which they paid through Prof A. L Tukur for booking of rooms in Damada Hotel in Yola, as a result of the cancellation of the flights.
The plaintiffs, through their lawyer, Musa Danladi, therefore asked the court to among others declare that Arik Air “is in express breach of its contract” by failing to transport for the trips shown on the air tickets sold to them by the airline.
They also asked the court to declare that “the defendant is in direct breach of the National Civil Aviation Regulations and in violation of the plaintiffs rights when it failed to offer the plaintiffs immediate reimbursement in cash following the abrupt cancellation of flight W3 838 to Yola.”
They also asked the court to declare that the defendant violated NCAA regulation “when it failed to offer assistance in the form of hotel accommodation and transportation within the time limits set out by the regulations to the plaintiffs following the cancellation of flight W3 838 to Yola.”
They also urged the court to order monetary awards to them.
These comprise the total sum of N204,213 as specific damages, representing the total amount paid for flight tickets by all the plaintiffs.
They also sought an order directing the defendant to pay them N5 million in general damages “following the irremediable inconvenience, transportation, hotel accommodation, loss of valuable time, physical and mental torture, steep financial losses and psychological trauma occasioned by the actions and inactions of the defendant”.
They also sought an order directing Arik Air to pay the plaintiffs N1.5 million.
The suit has not been assigned to a judge and the defendant has not filed a defence.