Passengers Stranded As Foreign Airlines Delay, Cancel Flights At New Intl Airport Terminal


International passengers departing Nigeria were on Wednesday and Thursday stranded in Lagos, Cairo, Doha, London and other destinations after baggage belt failures at the new terminal of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, forced airlines to delay and cancel flights.

The travel chaos lingered as officials of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria and foreign airlines battled to resolve the congestion and baggage failures in the MMIA new terminal.

The pandemonium followed the sudden relocation of foreign airlines from the international terminal of Lagos airport to an adjoining new terminal which was opened last March.

The new terminal, built by the Federal Government with loans from China, had remained underutilised until Wednesday when FAAN ordered over a dozen of international airlines to vacate the MMA international terminal to the place.

The new Minister of Aviation, Festus Keyamo, had ordered airlines to relocate to the new terminal on October 1, 2023 but FAAN on Wednesday forcefully relocated the international carriers to the facility.

The sudden relocation by FAAN came the same day fire razed part of the baggage hall of the MMIA, forcing the agency to evacuate passengers and personnel  from the facility.

Later on Wednesday afternoon, passengers and airport workers were asked to return to the terminal. However, at about 8pm, FAAN officials ordered airlines to relocate to the new terminal but officials of the carriers reportedly ignored the order, a situation that forced FAAN to turn off the check-in system.

The airlines later relocated to the new terminal to continue their check-in process at about 9pm, but congestion, frequent baggage belt failures, logistics challenges and other teething problems led to pandemonium at the terminal.

The chaos at the terminal forced international airlines to record over four hours of delays, a situation that forced many of their passengers to miss their connections.

British Airways, AirFrance, KLM, Qatar Airways flights, which were scheduled to depart Lagos between 10pm and 11pm on Wednesday, later left around 4am on Thursday.

 Passengers and airlines personnel who spoke with The PUNCH described the experience as ‘’hellish.”

Egypy also recorded about four hours of delay.

Airline officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to speak on the matter, said many of their passengers missed their connections in London, Cairo, Doha, Amsterdam and Paris.

It was also gathered that Kenya Airways was forced to cancel its flights after the crew exceeded their rest period. The stranded passengers were later taken to a Lagos hotel.

Reacting, the Director of Media, FAAN, Mr Abdullahi Yakubu-Funtua, said the airport fire and other development affecting power supply necessitated the sudden relocation of the foreign carriers.  However, he said FAAN was on the matter.

He said, “We are doing our best to make it better.  Issues like this will come with some challenges and hitches. Things are now as good as good as they should be and we hope it will be better. The MD and directors were there up till this evening.”

However, a top official of an European carrier, who spoke with The PUNCH, said the Federal Government needed to address the matter holistically.

She said, “The conveyor belts at the new terminal failed to work from last night (Wednesday). After the fire incident at the old terminal, which was put out, the smoke was heavy and the terminal had to be evacuated.

“After the smoke had cleared out, light was turned on and everything came back to normal. I left the airport at about 5:00pm. Air France, Lufthansa, British Airways, KLM and United Airlines were already checking-in that time. At about 8:00pm, however, FAAN officials came and asked everybody to leave the terminal and proceed to the new terminal to complete their check-in process. Of course, the airlines resisted because they were still checking in their passengers.  FAAN switched off the power at the check-in desks, so we were forcefully moved.”

She added, “So, all the airlines came to the new terminal but I think the baggage belts were not constructed to handle a lot of bags. The baggage belts kept breaking down from time to time, so the bags started piling up. Kenya Airways had to cancel their flight, Egypt Air had a four-hour delay, and they had over 100 passengers with connections; so they all missed their flight connections at Cairo and had to be put in hotels. British Airways, KLM and others left at about 4:00am, so all the flights from last night were delayed because of the baggage situation.”

On what could be done to address the situation, the official said, “The main issues are: there’s space constraint. The terminal does not have the capacity to accommodate the number of passengers that they’re forcing into that space, so I don’t know why they are insisting we have to move there. They’re saying it’s a ministerial mandate, the minister has said that we must move. The baggage breaks down frequently.”

“Even though the minister said the deadline is October 1, FAAN said they had decided to move by Sept 10. But why they are moving on September 6th is what we don’t know. United Airlines and Delta left around 3:00am.”

An official of another European carrier, who also spoke with The PUNCH, said, “ I was on standing from 7pm on Wednesday till 5:30am on Thursday. It was a miserable situation. The chaos continued this evening on Thursday. FAAN MD and the directors were also around to see the situation, it is sad.”

FAAN, in a statement explaining the sudden relocation on Thursday, said, “The Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria has redirected processing of passengers through the New International Terminal, effective immediately. The expedited relocation to the New International Terminal at MMIA was deemed necessary due to the unfortunate fire incident that occurred at International Terminal 1 yesterday.

“The Minister of Aviation and Aerospace Development, Mr. Festus Keyamo, during his maiden visit to Lagos airport had directed FAAN to relocate airlines to the New International Terminal for the shutdown of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport Terminal 1 by 1st October 2023  with a view to improving passenger experience and for a total overhaul of the terminal. We intend to make this movement  as seamless as possible  but  appeal to all travellers to please be at the airport early enough to  complete  their check-in  formalities on time  in order not to miss their flight.”


Chris Kehinde Nwandu is the Editor In Chief of CKNNEWS || He is a Law graduate and an Alumnus of Lagos State University, Lead City University Ibadan and Nigerian Institute Of Journalism || With over 2 decades practice in Journalism, PR and Advertising, he is a member of several Professional bodies within and outside Nigeria || Member: Institute Of Chartered Arbitrators ( UK ) || Member : Institute of Chartered Mediators And Conciliation || Member : Nigerian Institute Of Public Relations || Member : Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria || Fellow : Institute of Personality Development And Customer Relationship Management || Member and Chairman Board Of Trustees: Guild Of Professional Bloggers of Nigeria

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