The Murtala Muhammed International Airport, (MMIA) Lagos, handles more traffic than other airports in Nigeria, yet the passenger experience has continued to be below standard.
Over 90 percent of airport users that pass through the airport have one unpleasant experience or another about the terminal.
Car park infrastructure, walkways, security gates, check-in counters, and offensive odour at the airport are experiences that discourage travel and passenger facilitation.
BusinessDay spoke to passengers who frequent the MMIA and the majority of them identified similar issues that make travel a ‘nightmare’ experience for an average traveller.
Here are 10 things travellers said they often see or experience when they pass through the Lagos international airport.
Long walk from car park to terminal
It takes passengers about 15 to 25 minutes to walk with their luggage from the car park to the terminal to catch their flights.
“I have been to several countries and haven’t seen an airport environment where you take such a long walk to the airport terminal. This alone is discouraging,” Olamide Ohunayo, aviation analyst told BusinessDay.
After taking a long walk into the terminal, travellers are often exhausted and yet are faced with more hurdles to pass through at the airport.
Poor infrastructural aesthetics
Noticeable poor infrastructural aesthetics using the MMIA is another major challenge.
Seyi Adewale, a frequent user of the airport, told BusinessDay that for a traveller who is unfamiliar with our airports, everything appears to be disjointed and uncoordinated from the point of drive through, parking, walkway, etc.
“It appears an afterthought although one would recognise that the main airport at MMIA was built several years ago and development or improvement plans have been very disjointed and obsolete. We sincerely hope it would make sense upon its entire completion,” he said.
Number of people you need to interact with
From the security gates at the airport, interviews start. The security officer is already asking to see your passport, know the airline you want to fly with and the reason for travel. Travellers say in other climes, these questions are mostly asked by the people in the check-in counter and are often triggered by security concerns. Having to already answer countless questions at the security gate where security officials are only expected to check your bags through the screening machine can be disturbing.
After the security gate, airport staff and ticketing officers are another hurdle to pass through. An air passenger travelling through MMIA to Doha recently narrated how a student traveller was intimidated by a ticketing staff.
The passenger who identified herself as Moe with twitter handle @Mochievous, stated: “Airport staff are oppressors. When I was boarding my flight to Doha, a guy was in front of me. He was traveling for his masters. The ticketing officer checked his valid student visa and was now questioning him.
She explained that the ticket officer was asking the student for his return ticket and why he was going to school after securing one degree.
She stated that the ticketing officer went further to ask for the student’s university certificate; a question not supposed to be the business of a ticketing officer.
“At that point I had to step in as the guy was about to call someone I think to send him a copy of that or something. I’m like ‘is there a problem? Your job is to check his travel documents. If they are fine, board him,” she said.
There are many other checkpoints where you need to interact with people and answer several questions before you are eventually cleared to travel.
Number of luggage checks
In developed countries, your luggage will be screened just once and you will be cleared to travel but at the Lagos airport, the screening points are up to three. This makes travelling experience tiring.
“Each time I travel through the Lagos airport, my luggage will be screened about three times. Who does that? Does it mean the initial screening machine used wasn’t working? Why do they have to subject people to multiple luggage checks? It only shows how incompetent the security officials are,” Nneoma Uche, a frequent traveller, told BusinessDay.
Denying family members access to departure terminal
For many Nigerians, especially those travelling to study or relocate, saying their last goodbye to family, friends and loved ones is something they wouldn’t trade for anything.
Denying them the opportunity to bring in their family members into the terminal to help them facilitate their movement around the terminal and say their goodbye can be discouraging.
“When I travelled to study in the United States of America last year, my parents were not allowed into the terminal. I felt like crying, because I felt I needed them to stay a little longer with me while I’ll be checking in my luggage and filling other documentation.
In other developed countries, people are allowed into the terminal even if they are travelling or not. Duty-free shops at these airports often record huge sales as travellers and non-travellers come into the terminal to buy things,” Susan Funsho told BusinessDay.
Lack of functional departure boards
Departure boards are often the first port of call for passengers seeking information.
Passengers are provided with a vast array of information when transiting an airport terminal.
Departure boards are arguably one of the most important facilities at any international airport. They provide essential flight information, yet this is missing at the country’s busiest airport.
The absence of an airport departure board leaves passengers stranded at the airport and many are left at the mercy of airport staff on where to sit to catch their flights or when the flights will be ready for take-off.
Poor air conditioning
This has continued to be a cause of concern over the years. Most times, the airport terminal is hot as the chillers are either not working or the generator cannot power them.
“The multiple checkpoints, documentations and walkways already come with their challenges. A hot environment only makes it more difficult to stay,” Tunde Lanre told BusinessDay.
Hanson Nnadi with twitter handle @HansonNnadi stated: “The air conditions don’t work in the entire departure section.”
Inadequate seats at departure gate
Travellers are often requested to fill travel documents and they do this standing. When there are long queues at the terminal, passengers have to stand till it gets to their turn.
The Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) has on several occasions defended its decision of not making seats available for people to sit on. According to FAAN, unavailability of seats is to discourage touting and loitering at the airport.
However, in other developed airports, seats are often made available at every spot. This way, it is easy for passengers to wait for their flights at any spot they want.
Unfriendly airport environment
A passenger with twitter handle@markessien narrated his experience at the MMIA.
According to Markessien, the Lagos airport is probably one of the worst run, worst designed, and thought out places in Nigeria.
Markessien explained that passengers have to alight on the road that is one road away from the airport and there is no walkway to get to the airport, instead passengers have to walk back down the same road, trying to avoid other cars that are trying to drop off other people.
“There are two security gates for every single passenger. Where they scan bags for reasons I can’t deduce, because they don’t scan your body. You wait about one hour; the entire queue is at the first entrance because it’s not obvious there is a second entrance behind.
“There are some men who linger around and tell you they will take you to a faster way in exchange for a tip. If you agree, they just take you to the second entrance. Once in, there is no way to know the queue for your plane. All queues merge into one.
“There are big gaps in the queue for ‘walkways’ and it looks like the queue ends. But it does not! If you go in there, someone will yell at you to keep the walkway free. Queues are one hour long. If your luggage is slightly overweight and you remove an item, you are back to the queue end,” Markessien explains.
After the overwhelming experience, passengers who have long haul flights are already exhausted before the flight.
Bribery & corruption
There have been several reports of how airport officials, security agents, immigration officials and airline staff try to extort money from travellers.
“All those guys lingering around obviously have the incentive to make sure there are no signs whatsoever. There is no space anywhere. Security is also bribed to allow people who are not officials in,” MisterDavid with twitter handle @itsmisterdavid stated.