International students, passengers express concerns over airlines’ relocation at Lagos airport - PUNCH
SEPTEMBER 13, 2023
By Lilian Ukagwu
Passengers using the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos have expressed concerns about the confusion and lack of proper information that followed the directives by the Minister of Aviation and Aerospace Development, Festus Keyamo to relocate airlines to the new terminal at the airport.
The PUNCH reports that Keyamo had made a surprising announcement, directing all airlines to relocate from the airport by October 1, 2023, but the Federal Aviation Authority of Nigeria last Wednesday forcefully relocated the international carriers to the facility.
While this move may be seen as a necessary step for airport improvement and development, it has caused worries among international students and passengers alike.
International students, who rely on frequent flights to their home countries, are concerned about the potential disruptions and inconveniences this relocation may cause. Many of them have already booked their flights well in advance and fear that these changes could lead to missed connections and increased travel time.
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Speaking to a group of international students studying at various institutions in Nigeria, the majority expressed their disappointment and worries over the minister’s decision.
A passenger, Adekemi Awomolo expressed her distress, highlighting concerns about the sudden and unplanned nature of the notice.
Awomolo described her reaction to the news as disturbing and confusing, hoping that no further complications would arise prior to her flight, adding the impromptu nature of the notice had caused unease among passengers, leaving them uncertain about what may happen during the transition period.
Expressing concerns over the impact on airline operations, Awomolo emphasized the potential disruptions that could occur due to the abrupt relocation directive. “The notice is very short and unplanned, and it would affect most airline operations too,” she explained.
The unexpected relocation notice has fueled worries among passengers, generating uncertainty about the alternatives that may be implemented. Awomolo mentioned the possibility of being redirected to the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja, which would not only inconvenience travellers but also raise additional concerns about the logistics and travel arrangements.
In light of the situation, Awomolo believed that the government should have approached the matter with better strategizing and planning. She suggests a gradual reduction in the number of airlines operating at Terminal One to allow for a smoother transition and give airlines sufficient time to adjust their operations accordingly.
The lack of adequate planning and preparation has left passengers like Awomolo questioning the government’s decision-making process. The absence of a well-thought-out contingency plan adds to their concerns, particularly regarding the potential difficulties in rescheduling flights.
“The news was disturbing, seeing that I was confused and was praying that nothing more should happen before my flight date. I feel that the notice is very short and unplanned and it would affect most airline operations too.
“This is likely to cause some concerns because people may become uncertain of what may happen next, maybe they go take us to Abuja to board.
“I feel the government should have strategized better by gradually reducing the number of airlines operating at the terminal one and giving airlines time to adjust operations too.”
Also, an intending passenger and student of the University of Law, United Kingdom, Segun Odutayo expressed disappointment and frustration regarding the timing and lack of consideration by the government and aviation ministry in ensuring a smooth travel experience.
Speaking about the impromptu relocation of airlines to terminal two, Odutayo shared his concerns about the overall handling of travel arrangements.
“It’s so sad that this news is coming at this crucial time,” Odutayo remarked. “This incident only reinforces my perception that the government and the aviation ministry do not have our best interests at heart, particularly when it comes to making travelling an easy experience for us as students.”
Expressing his discontent, Odutayo emphasized that the short notice period for any flight changes would significantly impact people’s travel plans and cause unnecessary disruption. He urged the government to consider providing a minimum of four months’ notice for any changes or disruptions in flight schedules, thus allowing individuals to adequately plan and make alternative arrangements.
Odutayo further urged the government and aviation authorities to proactively create alternative plans for travellers, ensuring that their journeys continue without unnecessary obstacles or inconveniences. By doing so, he believes that the burden and stress on passengers can be significantly reduced.
He said,” It’s so sad that this news is coming at this crucial time. This added to my perception that the government and the aviation ministry do not have our interest at heart as they have chosen not to make travelling an easy one for us as a student. For whatever reason, the notice period is short.
“This would affect people’s travel plans and the effects and would allow unnecessary changes in flights already scheduled for this period. The government should give at least four months’ notice and make alternative plans for travellers.”
Another passenger, an international student, Bukola Adebayo, expressed his worries regarding the impact of the airline relocation on his travel plans. He believes that the notice given for the relocation is short, especially considering that this period is a peak time for international students travelling out and the end of summer vacation for many.
With the airline relocation announcement, Bukola shared that his flight time has already changed three times since he booked his flight. He is concerned that these changes may jeopardize his resumption day and cause disruptions to his academic plans.
Reacting to the development, the President, Association of Foreign Airlines and Representatives in Nigeria, Dr. Kingsley Nwokoma expressed his apprehensions over the capacity of Terminal Two to accommodate all the foreign airlines and stakeholders effectively. He remarked that during the construction of the terminal, the progression and growth of the industry were not adequately considered. As a result, the relocation to Terminal Two may prove to be chaotic and challenging for the airlines and passengers involved.
The president emphasized the importance of network punctuality in airline administration. He pointed out that many passengers had purchased tickets months in advance, and now they were being asked to adapt to the relocation. While he acknowledged that the recent power outage was a safety concern, he highlighted the significant disruptions it has caused, including flight cancellations, delays, and issues with the conveyor belt system.
Dr Nwokoma explained that the disruptions to network punctuality had forced passengers to alter their itineraries, with some travelers having to make unscheduled stops during their journeys. He expressed concern that such inconveniences would result in not only financial losses for the airlines but also potential lawsuits from disgruntled passengers.
Furthermore, he emphasized the long-standing safety concerns raised by airlines regarding the parking of large aircraft at Terminal Two. Previous measures were taken to address these concerns by demolishing nearby buildings. However, the current airline relocation has added another layer of complexity to these safety challenges.
He went on to express his worry about the impact on students, who are slated to resume their studies. Delays and disruptions in their travel plans may pose significant problems, as they need to reach their final destinations promptly, adding that schools and institutions may not sympathize with the late arrivals, potentially complicating matters for the affected students.
He said, “So it is not easy on the airlines and of course, there would be a lot of passengers that would sue airlines. It’s not a good thing at all because terminal two the airlines have been complaining about safety in regards to big aircraft coming to the park and that was why the then government in power decided to demolish some buildings because of the safety implications now this has come to add to it. It’s not a good thing for the airlines because they are on the receiving end and passengers too are on the receiving end and the airlines can’t really do anything here because there is no how they can help the passengers.
“The students that are supposed to resume it’s going to be a big problem because they need to get to their final destination and if there are issues and they can’t get to their final destination it’s going to be a big problem because no school is going to be looking at that rather they will ask why did you come late.
Meanwhile, an industry stakeholder who doubles as the Chairman United Nigeria Airlines, Prof Obiora Okonkwo, said,” There is no manual for relocation. It has nothing to do with students who are travelling, You land where you are to land and be attended to where you are to be attended to, this should be an issue that affects international airline operators and not Passengers. But I’m sure those that will relocate will be happy with the minister because they will see more modern facilities that will make their work easy.”