Many international travelers were left stranded and frustrated in various destinations after a series of mishaps at the new terminal of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA) in Lagos, Nigeria.
The problems started on Wednesday, when the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) abruptly moved several foreign airlines from the old international terminal to the new one, which was inaugurated in March with loans from China.
The relocation was ordered by the new Minister of Aviation, Festus Keyamo, who wanted to utilize the new terminal by October 1, 2023.
However, FAAN decided to implement the order on the same day that a fire broke out in the baggage hall of the old terminal, disrupting the operations and forcing the evacuation of passengers and staff.
The fire was eventually put out, and passengers and workers were allowed to return to the old terminal. But around 8pm, FAAN officials switched off the check-in system and instructed the airlines to move to the new terminal. The airlines complied reluctantly, but faced several challenges at the new facility.
The new terminal was plagued by congestion, frequent baggage belt failures, logistics issues and other glitches that caused chaos and confusion among passengers and airline personnel. The PUNCH reported that the situation was “hellish” for those who were affected.
As a result, many international flights were delayed by over four hours, making many passengers miss their connecting flights in other cities.
Some of the airlines that suffered delays were British Airways, Air France, KLM, Qatar Airways and EgyptAir. Kenya Airways had to cancel its flights after its crew exceeded their rest period. The stranded passengers were accommodated in a Lagos hotel.
The Director of Media of FAAN, Mr Abdullahi Yakubu-Funtua, blamed the airport fire and power supply issues for the sudden relocation of the foreign carriers.
He said FAAN was doing its best to make things better and hoped for improvement. He added that the FAAN management was at the airport until late evening to oversee the situation.
However, a senior official of a European airline told The PUNCH that the Federal Government needed to address the matter holistically. She said that the conveyor belts at the new terminal failed to work from Wednesday night and that FAAN should have planned and communicated better with the airlines before moving them to the new terminal.