Fiji Airways and AFL need to Step-up

29/09/2016 12:21

There should be ‘better coordination’ between Fiji Airways and Airports Fiji Limited (AFL) to deal with flight disruptions/cancellations at our international airports.

The Consumer Council of Fiji expresses concern in the manner in which passengers travelling on the Suva–Sydney Fiji Airway’s flight from Nausori International Airport last Sunday (25 September), were managed by the airline and AFL staff, after their flight was cancelled because of ongoing maintenance work at the airport. Some frustrated travelers have raised concern with the Council over the poor coordination and handling of the situation arising due to unforeseen circumstances.

Inconvenient service and lack of customer care set the order of the day for the affected passengers, most of who began their journey at around 4 am, waking up early to catch a direct early morning flight. They were only served breakfast at 11.30 am onboard the bus to Nadi. Some complained about not having enough drinking water as well. Upon arrival at Nadi International Airport, it was again a long wait in the queue as the next available flight was at 6.30 pm.

Customer frustration continued when some passengers suffered financial loss as they were not assisted by the airline, AFL or duty-free stores at Nadi International Airport, to collect their purchased duty free items such as liquor and perfumes which they had already bought at Nausori International Airport after going through customs/immigration checks.

These passengers had requested for a refund before leaving for Nadi considering that they would have to again pass through customs/immigration checks and there are restrictions on carrying liquid in hand luggage. AFL staff at Nausori Airport confirmed that the duty free items were held by the Customs officers at Nausori International Airport but passengers can collect their purchased items before boarding the flight at Nadi international Airport and there was no need to worry.

Unfortunately, these passengers left for Sydney without collecting their purchased liquor/perfumes as ‘no one’ was taking responsibility at Nadi International Airport to honour the transactions that were made at Nausori International Airport. These passengers could not have waited any longer to fight for their goods as they were warned that the flight will leave without them.

After a lot of fuss, AFL staff guaranteed that the ground staff in Sydney were aware of the situation and the passengers were to give in their names/addresses and other details so that the items could be picked up from the airport or delivered. On arrival, the ground staff in Sydney had no idea about any such arrangement.

Flight disruptions or irregular operations are expected in aviation industry but the question is - are the airlines, AFL and other stakeholders such as the duty-free outlets and Fiji Revenue & Customs Authority  prepared to deal with such situations? Do they have clear responsibilities chalked out and whether staff of these organisations are well versed with it? The onus is on these key players to strive to find the best way to coordinate and make the journey comfortable for the affected consumers.

Consumers are paying for the service, therefore, the services should not be compromised. The Council is requesting for a clear policy on passenger rights for aviation industry which should be clearly displayed on the airline website. This will avoid confusion among the travelers.