Wanted: Efficient airport terminals - THE NATION
Do our airports give a good travelling experience to passengers? Poor cooling system, epileptic power supply, damaged or pilfered baggage, geriatric elevators characterise them. But, the experience seems to be changing at privately managed airport terminals, KELVIN OSA-OKUNBOR reports
Giving passengers a good treat as they process their flights through airport terminals is gaining global traction as authorities comply with new health and safety protocols wrought on the industry by COVID-19 pandemic.
Airports across the globe have, in the last one year, introduced new safety and healthy measures endorsed by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and International Civil Aviation Organisation to curb the spread of the ravaging pandemic.
From application of hand sanitisers, disinfection of passenger luggage, to temperature checking before entering airport terminals, the authorities have not relented.
In fact, some airport authorities have gone ahead to install infrared facilities that will reduce human contact, all in a bid to improve passengers experience at airports.
Significantly, airport authorities, including terminal operators in Nigeria, are not leaving anything to chance in improving the ambience of their terminals with top notch technological facilities to improve passenger experience.
Over 24 airports fall under public management coordinated by the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN).
Scores of complaints by passengers using these airports have forced the government to scale up efforts at ensuring they meet the acceptable minimum standards.
To underscore the point, many airlines and passengers are pushed to ask the managers of the publicly managed terminals to emulate the standards available at a few privately managed terminals in Lagos, Asaba, Uyo, and Osubi.
Significantly, many passengers are excited at new developments at the private airport terminal in Lagos .
Murtala Muhammed Airport (MMA2) Terminal Two, Ikeja, Lagos is a private terminal sealed under a concession agreement between the Federal Government and Bi-Courtney Aviation Services Limited (BASL) .
Operational since 2007, the terminal, according to its managers, has attracted the attention of global regulators, including the International Air Association (IATA), and Airports Council International (ACI) as it seeks to adopt good passenger experience with the installation of modern safety and operational facilities.
A few years ago, the operators installed bar coded check-in equipment that reduces processing time for passengers using the terminal.
Only last month, the operator of the first privately managed airport terminal in Nigeria, committed over $500,000 to acquire x-ray screening machines, air conditioners and escalator equipment at the facility to improve passenger experience.
To drive this ambition of becoming a terminal of choice for airlines, passengers and other airport users, the company last week started the upgrade of facilities at the MMA2 Terminal Two.
Besides new air conditioners being installed to improve the cooling of the facility, more electronic checkin facilities that allow passenger swipe their boarding pass were also installed to enhance seamless facilitation.
The upgrade of facilities at the terminal has sparked reactions from passengers and other users who travel through the airport, urging why operators of other terminals have not deemed it fit to fix their facility.
In an interview, a passenger, who identified himself as Kamal Ololade Ahmed, on a flight from Lagos-Kaduna processed from the terminal, was excited at the level of adherence to COVID-19 safety and protocols.
Ahmed said: “Too many things fascinated me on that day. First, I saw the seamless compliance with COVID-19 protocols, including the measuring of temperature and the sanitising of hands. My bags were also disinfected. It was done without any hassles. I have been to other airports where these protocols are either not obeyed at all or only applied sparingly. You could also avoid them, if you were a very important person.
“Then I came into a hall that was large enough to accommodate all the passengers seeking to board and check-in for their flights, it was so comfortable and I immediately started comparing it to my experience in other airports in Nigeria, including the international airports.
” I also observed that a new set of air conditioners were being installed to enhance the cooling in the facility. It has no competitor, yet it is further being enhanced by the owners.
“I went up the escalator effortlessly. When these escalators were being installed in 2006, I was one of those who laughed at the operator. I was sure it was going to break down permanently as similar facilities in other airports had broken down so soon after they had been installed.
” I am used to the irregular behaviour of the escalators in other airports. I wonder how the expatriates coming to Nigeria feel when they arrive at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport. I always pray quietly in my heart that they would have cause to fly out through MMA2 and come to the realisation that Nigeria is not an irredeemable case.
” Nigerians can actually provide world class infrastructure I earnestly hope that MMA2 will soon commence international flights and change the widely held perception that Nigeria or Nigerians cannot run a proper facility.”
A frequent flyer, Mr Idris Lawan urged other terminal users to emulate the maintenance culture in place at the private terminal.
He said: “It is 14 years and these escalators are still working. A large number of us went up the escalator and came into the check-in point as if we were in Europe or the United States of America. At the check-in court, I expected some bottlenecks. I was surprised to see that the check-in procedure was electronically handled. If you had your boarding pass, you only had to swipe it and you are checked in.
“Again, as a regular traveller, I remember when it was inaugurated around 2015 by the then Minister of Aviation, Mr. Osita Chidoka, I laughed, because I assumed it was going to break down shortly after. It is over 10 years and it is still working. I am sure Mr. Chidoka will look back with joy that he participated in the inauguration of such an enduring airport infrastructure.
“My curious mind made me ask one of the officials why this was happening. He explained that the owners of MMA2 are very particular about security. They had acquired new X-ray machines to replace the ones that were beginning to reflect wear and tear and also enhanced the quality of screening at the airport.”
He, however, challenged managers of publicly managed airport terminals to up their game.
The frequent flyer asked: ” How could a private company create such an edifice and yet does not enjoy the full support of government? Why can’t the Federal Airport Authority of Nigerian (FAAN), with all the resources of the government and its internally generated revenue (IGR), create a terminal of this status?
“Why must the government continue to insist on running the nation’s airports so inefficiently and inflicting pain on Nigerians when there is an alternative of handing over these airports to BASL?”