• Sunday, July 21, 2024
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Respite for passengers as FAAN upgrades domestic terminal lounge

Respite for passengers as FAAN upgrades domestic terminal lounge

As countries open up for travels, air travel has continued to post strong rebound, as Omicron-related impacts moderate.

States that fail to upgrade and expand airport facilities amid the travel rebound and summer travel rush risk missing out on the enormous economic and societal benefits that a restoration of international connectivity will bring.

In the light of this, governments also need to upgrade local terminals and lounges which are often impacted by traffic demands from the international terminals.

Respite is finally here for passengers as Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) commence gradual expansion of the domestic terminal waiting lounge at the General Aviation Terminal (GAT) of the Murtala Muhammed Airport (MMA), Lagos.

New facilities at the terminal

Presently the waiting lounge of the terminal has 500 capacity but with the expansion, FAAN plans to increase the capacity to 1,054 and the current bungalow building will give way for a two storey building.

The new waiting lounge will have an aviation clinic annex, elevator for check-in passengers, state-of-the-art cooling system, more screening points from two to five, enhanced comfortable space for checked-in passengers and enhanced space for VIPS and Protocols.

The project which is expected to be completed in nine to 12 months is contracted to Glovesly Pro-Project Limited and when completed, will be the largest domestic terminal in Nigeria.

Yemi Aiyeleso, general manager, Project, FAAN and project coordinator, GAT Lagos Airport while explaining the expansion of the waiting lounge at GAT Lagos airport said at the terminal, there are two halls: Zulu and Alpha halls.

Aiyeleso said the Zulu terminal is the one being expanded currently, adding that for a while now, the space at the Zulu terminal has been inadequate and due to its inadequacy, most of the airlines moved to the other terminal within the airport.

He said the management has embarked upon inspection of the terminal several times and has concluded that it is necessary to expand the terminal so that it can accommodate more passengers.

“We wrote a proposal, sent it to the ministry of aviation and Hadi Sirika, the minister of aviation; he approved it and sent it to the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) and the Federal Executive Council (FEC) for their approvals, which we got.

“Presently, the VIP is a bungalow building and we intend to expand it to a two storey building. Also, we intend to have expanded protocols at the terminal so that if the capacity of the users is high, other passengers can go to any of the storey buildings. We are going to have escalators that will take people from one level to the other and they are all interconnected. So, from one terminal, you can easily get to the other,” he disclosed.

Aiyeleso said presently, the terminal has two screening points and machines at the Zulu terminal, but with the expansion, the authority hopes to have five screening points, which will be interconnected such that there will be easy passage of passengers and seamless connectivity.

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He assured that the waiting time will be reduced for air travellers and passenger facilitation will definitely improve.

Adekunle Aderibigbe, terminal manager, GAT, Lagos Airport said the extension of the domestic terminal waiting lounge, the Zulu Hall, started some few weeks ago, adding that the Alpha Hall has been extended some few years ago, but now, the government started the extension of the Zulu hall in which when it is completed, will have aviation clinic annex, elevator for passenger use, comfortable space for checked-in travellers and a space for aged and nursing mothers.

In addition, Aderibigbe said the current lounge for the Very Important Persons (VIPs) and government officials will be extended and the screening areas will be extended for passenger facilitation at the screening areas.

Speaking on the new waiting lounge expansion, John Ojikutu, aviation security consultant and secretary general of the Aviation Safety Round Table Initiative (ASRTI) said all agencies should have a Research and Development (R&D) Department, which can be used to get the passenger traffic for our airports.

He said apart from the waiting lounge expansion, FAAN should be thinking about expanding the terminal building at the local airport.

Ojikutu however applauded the upgrade but insists that whatever is being done should be in consonance with the passenger growth; one that lasts for more than 10 years.

“The arrival and departure passengers should be considered in doing this, while the number of boarding gates should also be increased. On completion, the terminal will still ease passenger movement. However, I want to commend the FAAN management for the initiative,” he said.

Olumide Ohunayo, aviation expert said the new expansion is a good move for FAAN to plan concerning the expansion in domestic air transport as more airlines are coming in.

Ohunayo said there is discomfort, delays and rescheduling of flights due to capacity at the local wing, adding that the waiting lounge needed to be expanded to cope with the expansion, bring comfort to passengers and further reduce anxiety of the early morning flight delays.

“I support this move and again, it shows that the previous ministers and FAAN managing directors didn’t look at the future with the expansion and remodelling that have taken place in recent years in the industry. For instance, look at the new terminal at the international airport and the bringing down of buildings, it shows poor planning.

“I want to say that those who have taken poor decisions in the interest of the country in the past and cost us extra money and pain to correct the mistakes of the past, should be sanctioned,” he said.

Enhanced revenue generation for FAAN

Experts say the inadequate capacity of the domestic terminal waiting lounge compelled some of the airlines to move their operations to the other available terminal within the airport.

FAAN expects that with the upgrade, some of its clients who hitherto moved can come back.

Alternative/comfort for passengers

FAAN has said the new terminal lounge will be built in such a way that it is easy for passengers to move without any discomfort to them.

A place will be allocated for the contractors to put their equipment and the authority has said critical jobs, which may affect easy movement of passengers, will be done at night. “It is a seamless work for everyone,” Aiyeleso said.

“I feel happy to be the coordinator of this project. I am very grateful to my management for the opportunity given me to serve in this capacity. I can assure them that the project will be on-time, professionally done and quality-wise, it will be top notch. By the time we finish, everyone will appreciate what we are doing.

“The travelling public should not be worried. The work when we begin in full blast will not affect their movement. We have done it so well that anytime you get there, you will only know that something is going on, but it won’t affect their operations or vehicular movement,” he assured.

Adekunle Aderibigbe said one of the major reasons for the terminal expansion is to create more comfort to the travelling public.

“When the FAAN management, led by Rabiu Yadudu, managing director, came on board a few years ago, the management discovered that the Zulu Hall was too small to accommodate the influx of passengers to the terminal.

“The MD on inspection at times, will see some of the passengers standing, while some of the nursing mothers will be seen carrying their babies in their hands when the facility is stretched at the peak period. So, the management felt it was necessary to increase the ambience for the travelling public and other users of our facilities, which we have commenced now,” Aderibigbe explained.

He assured that after the completion of this project, the seating arrangement will be enhanced, members of the public will enjoy all the facilities that are coming on board after its completion and the cooling system will be enhanced for all users.

He said currently the corporate affairs have commenced with jingles in the national media by sensitising the public about the various on-going projects, including the terminal upgrade.

“In terms of vehicular movement, we have given a space to the contractors where their vehicles and materials will be appropriately parked to reduce discomfort to the travelling public,” he said.

Passengers’ reactions

Speaking on the effect of expansion on the travelling public, Sandra Emokpe, a frequent traveller said the upgrade will be nice for the travelling public if it is done and done well.

Emokpe said it will create more space and comfort for the passengers and other users of the terminal; boost passenger facilitation and reduce delays at the terminal.

“I think it is a good job that the management is trying to put together and I hope that it will be done appropriately. Also, the government too should support them (FAAN) and give the management the adequate support it requires to get the job done as planned,” she said.

Evelyn Anosike, another airport user, said the current management at FAAN is looking forward with this project.

Anosike said airports are supposed to be a place of comfort for passengers, not a place of discomfort, adding that once the Zulu area of the terminal is increased, more passengers will feel more comfortable using this place and it will be an added advantage to the airlines and business entities operating from this terminal.

“Don’t be surprised, once passengers know they can have a bit of comfort, they will be willing to patronise the airlines using this terminal and it’s a better business for them and everyone. I however hope that FAAN will increase the cooling system to reduce the present heat that we usually experience at peak period,” she said.