How Chibuzor’s Africlaim redefines service delivery in aviation sector
Chibuzor Kingsley Ofulue is the co-founder and director of Africlaim, a start-up business dedicated to enforcing airline passenger rights which are usually neglected within the African continent and Nigeria in particular.
Chibuzor is a final year student of International Business at the Loughborough University, the United Kingdom. He co-founded Africlaim with his friend Ifeanyi Ezechukwu after a not-too-good experience from an airline.
Ifeanyi’s flight from Nigeria to the United Kingdom was delayed and eventually cancelled yet there was no form of compensation given to passengers despite the fact that the flight disruption was within the control of the airline.
In trying to ensure that Ifeanyi was compensated by the airline, Chibuzor (and his friend) began to do a lot of research on global aviation laws. In their quest, they discovered that there was a European regulation which was drafted in 2004 and passed into law in 2005, stating that passengers were entitled to a financial compensation when they were denied boarding or the flights were delayed or cancelled if the cause of the fight disruption was within the airline’s control.
The law also states that passengers are not entitled to any form of financial claims when it is out of the control of the airline such as in cases of extreme weather conditions, war, natural disasters and the like.
As a result of the information and determination to fight for compensation, Chibuzor’s friend was finally compensated by the airline and to change this for other passengers who would encounter similar issues, Chibuzor and his friend established Africlaim in 2016.
“So to change this for other people we were inspired to establish Africlaim. The air passenger rights are usually neglected in Nigeria and Africa. We have been learning a whole new thing and still trying new things to ensure that people get their claims,” Chibuzor said.
Both founders of Africlaims went into partnership with some lawyers to be able to effectively and efficiently speed up the claims recovery processes for their clients.
According to the young entrepreneur, their initial start-up capital for the business was obtained from personal savings, which was used in designing the organisation’s website to create a platform for customers to submit applications for their compensations.
“We started the business with our personal savings. We spent the money on building our website and making sure it was running promptly. Our website was to create a platform where customers can check their eligibility without making any upfront cost and submit their claim forms online,” he said.
The undergraduate stated that the company had been able to recover over 40 claims since starting operations last year with hundreds of claims still under processing. He told Start-Up Digest that Africlaim did not charge its customers upfront until the claims were recovered.
“The process is free until the claims are recovered. This motivates us to chase the claims harder because we don’t get paid until the claims are fully recovered. And so far since starting last year, we have recovered over 40 claims with many still in the process,” Chibuzor said.
Chibuzor told Start-Up Digest that the biggest challenge confronting their business since starting was the attitude of the Nigerian airlines. He stated that their process of requesting a claim was cumbersome and very slow. He also stated that the lack of passengers’ protection law was also a big challenge to their business.
“The response time of Nigerian airline is four times the response time of an EU carrier. There are no laws protecting the Nigerian passengers,” he said.
He likewise stated that the organisation is yet to start processing claims for domestic flights owing to the lack of passenger’s protection law in the country.
Chibuzor called on the government to put in place a policy framework that would ensure that passengers were protected and also to bridge the infrastructural gaps in the aviation sector in the country, stating that this would ensure efficiency and effectiveness in service delivery in the sector.
He said that the organisation currently had 10 employees and also outsourced some of its work. He told Start-Up Digest that the company was planning to start helping passengers with issues of missing luggage to be compensated by airlines through the luggage tracker. According to him, the tracker would help passengers trace their luggage all through their flight.
When asked how he was able to grow his business despite recession, Chibuzor said that despite the economic downturn in the country, Nigerians were still travelling and that the cost of the flight ticket did not determine their charges but the duration in which a claim could be recovered.
He stated that the business had grown tremendously since starting.
“We have plans to start looking into missing luggage. We are planning to manufacture baggage tracker which will make it easy for passengers to monitor and track their bags to know where they were before eventually being lost in transit,” said Chibuzor.
“We are also planning to get physical presence at the airports where our customers can walk directly to us and tell us about their flight details and we check their eligibility claims before putting in for claims.
“We intend to also expand across the West African region because we believe that the bigger we get the more pressure we can pile on the government to put in place passenger protection laws so that we can also help domestic flight passengers get compensated from flight disruptions,” he added.
When asked what his advice to other entrepreneurs was, he stated that knowledge and networking should always come first before finance for any entrepreneur that wanted to commence any business. He noted that a lot of great business ideas were yet to manifest because finance was put in place first before knowledge and networking.