The alleged insensitivity of the management of Ethiopian Airlines to consumers' plight has caused an Abuja based legal practitioner, Aikhunegbe Anthony Malik, to file a N16.8 million suit before a Federal High Court, Abuja against the company over alleged breach of contract and missing of luggage.
In action filed by Mr. Malik in suit no CS/Abuja/, the lawyer, who claimed to have travelled with the Airline from United Arab Emirates, UAE to Nigeria on September 10, 2012, was asking for the payment of N16, 882, 500 million as general, aggravated and exemplary damages against the company for his inability to get his luggages as and when due.
According to him, he travelled with the Airlines from UAE with two different luggages weighing 20 kg each, which were properly tagged, but on his arrival in Abuja, his last destination, he couldn't lay his hands on one of the luggages as it got missing, until after 11 days after he had suffered so much discomfort, pain, and also made repayment for several goods, he bought for his friends who was getting married.
To this end, the plaintiff was praying the court for an order among others declaring that the Airline owes him a duty as a customer by virtue of contract of carriage between him and the company, "to deliver promptly to the Plaintiff at his final destination the two bags (luggage) which he checked into the Defendant's operated flight,"
He also want the court to declare "that the act or action of the Defendant in refusing, failing or neglecting to deliver to the Plaintiff his luggage 11 days after same was accepted by the Defendant and checked-into the Defendant's operated flight, is disrespectful, dishonourable, un-dignifying, discourteous, condemnable, primitive, wicked, inconsiderate, insensitive and a breach of the contract of carriage between the Plaintiff and the Defendant."
He was therefore asking for payment of damages in the sum of N16, 882, 500 million as general, aggravated and exemplary damages covering "the extra money expended by the Plaintiff to replace some items, to wit, school shoes, bags and lunch boxes for his children, contained in his luggage which was held over for Eleven (11) days by the Defendant, N315, 000, representing the money given out by the Plaintiff to his friend for the two suits and wedding rings.
Others are N5, 000,000.000, as general damages for the alleged unjustifiable breach of the contract of carriage of goods and N10 Million on the footing of aggravated and exemplary damages; and N1,500 million, being the cost of prosecuting the case.
Besides, the plaintiff was asking for an order of court directing the airline to publish an undertaking in a national newspaper and on its website a written apology for the alleged embarrassment and financial losses incurred because of the incident.
In his 43-page paragraph in support of the motion, the plaintiff averred that he embarked on a trip to Dubai on 1st September, 2012 with the defendant's airline and arrived safely at Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
He said that at the end of his trip to Dubai, he presented himself on 9th September, 2012 at the Ethiopian Airlines check-in counter at the Dubai International Airport with two boxes, each weighing 20kg for the purpose of checking in into his flights number. ET 0911 (ADDIS ABABA - ABUJA) to both Addis Ababa and the connecting flight to Abuja, his final destination.
But on arrival in Abuja, he discovered that the airline did not come with his full luggage, until 11 days after same was accepted by the defendant and checked-into the defendant's operated flight.
He added that up till Wednesday,12th September, 2012, he neither received his luggage from the defendant nor got the courtesy of a telephone call or short message service (SMS) to even explain or apologize to him over the undue delay in getting his luggage to him, which prompted him to institute the action.
But in a reaction by the company, the Traffic and Sales Manager of the airline, who confirmed that there existed a pending issue between the company and the legal practitioner, declined comment on the basis that the subject case was already a court case, which the company was not at liberty to discuss or give any information about.
Meanwhile, in the company's fact sheet, it was stated that part of the management's core values would be to treat internal and external customers the way they would like to be treated, with a mission statement that it was established to contribute positively to the socio-economic development of Ethiopia in particular and the countries it operates in general by undertaking its corporate social responsibilities and providing vital global air connectivity.