• Monday, March 04, 2024
businessday logo

BusinessDay

Explainer: Why Passengers must arrive 5 hours early at Lagos airport

The last few days have been chaotic for passengers travelling through the new Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA) airport terminal.

The uncontrolled crowd, the confused passengers, the luggage littered around the airport terminal and the unusual flight delays and cancellations due to airlines’ inability to process its passengers within the time allowed have made the airport terminal look more like a marketplace.

Air passengers are required to be at the airport at least two or three hours before the scheduled departure of the Aeroplane, Still, with the current situation at MMIA, if passengers are not at the airport at least four to five hours before flight time, they are likely to miss their flights.

Last week, Festus Keyamo, the Minister of Aviation and Aerospace Development, directed airlines and companies operating at the MMIA old airport terminal to move to the new terminal, constructed by the Chinese company, to allow for total repair and overhaul of the old terminal.

The Minister had given a deadline of October 1 2023, for the relocation.

However, the management of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) had to fast-track the implementation of this directive in response to the recent fire outbreak, which raised safety concerns and affected passengers’ movements.

The development has since led to an influx of passengers at the new terminal.

Airlines have since grappled with terminal congestion, resulting in flight delays and cancellations, leaving several passengers stranded.

Read also Congestion at new MMIA terminal halts operations, leaves passengers stranded

While eight airlines were initially operating at the new terminal before the relocation, 13 more airlines had relocated to the airport, making 21 airlines depart from the facility.

Foreign airlines had complained about the apron capacity at the new terminal, which they said cannot accommodate wide-bodied aircraft.

Although several buses have been made available to convey passengers to the aircraft after going through the check-in formalities, this has not helped airport authorities and airlines manage the current influx and congestion at the new Lagos terminal.

A visit by BusinessDay to the terminal on Friday evening showed a very long queue of passengers from the entry point to the end of the foot of the airport, waiting to access the terminal building.

BusinessDay’s findings show that it would take an average passenger about an hour to enter the new terminal due to the long queues.

It will take passengers another two hours to get their tickets, get their luggage screened and processed for the aeroplane, and go through checkpoints requiring that passengers present personal items in the available trays, separated from their hand baggage.

Passengers would spend another hour thirty minutes or more to pass through immigration officials and other officials who check your travel documents, such as tickets and visas, to ensure they are valid for travel.

With these long processes passengers undergo before they get to sit inside the aircraft, it is only helpful that passengers get to the airport five hours before boarding.

A staff at Virgin Atlantic had taken to her Instagram handle earlier in the week to explain challenges already faced by airlines and passengers as a result of the relocation.

“It’s a total nightmare. We had to spread the bags across three belts. The last bag went down the belt precisely one hour and eight minutes after the flight should have departed. In all, it was one hour 37 minutes delay. Who pays for this? Kenya Airways cancelled last night because they ran out of crew time. Last night, one hundred passengers on Egypt Sir missed their connections; Who pays for this? ”

Other affected Instagram users lamented how the airport management had failed to manage routine operations effectively.

An aviation stakeholder who would not want his name mentioned said the new terminal cannot handle the traffic the ‘forced’ movement will bring.

“It has nothing to do with the fire. The aviation minister has advisers who should have told him that forcing all international traffic to the new terminal is not feasible.”

Read also MMIA shutdown deadline looms as investors, businesses sweat

Following the teething problems of relocating the international airlines to the new terminal, the Minister of Aviation and Aerospace Development set up a task force to resolve these challenges within the shortest possible period.

The members of the task force include Hassan Musa, Retired PS and ex-Dir of the Department of Air Transport Management; Adebayo Oladipo, General Manager of Aerodrome Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA); Collins Mukoro, Special Adviser (SA) to the Minister of Aviation and Aerospace Development; Uyoyou Edhekpo, SA to the Minister of Aviation and Aerospace Development; and Henry Agbebire, SA to the Minister of Aviation and Aerospace Development.

In a statement by Oluseyi Odutayo, Head of Press and Public Affairs, Ministry of Aviation and Aerospace Development, he urged all passengers and other stakeholders to be patient and bear with the government as the inconvenience caused will soon be resolved.

Odutayo said the primary objective of this task force includes resolving passenger concerns, minimising discomfort and enhancing the effective public company.

He said the Minister extends his deepest regrets over the inconvenience caused and assures all travellers that the ministry is fully committed to resolving these concerns promptly.