AIR Meridiana flight IG 3722 yesterday abandoned no fewer than 40 passengers at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos preventing them from checking in only later to come out with a claim that the passengers were late.
The Milan bound passengers comprising males, females, children and minors were prevented from checking in by the airline ground staff, probably because of over-booking and same ground staff of the airline refused to communicate with the passengers on why they were not airlifted by the airline.
Some of the passengers had come from Edo, Delta, Abia, Anambra States and others with the hope of catching flight to Milan, the airline’s base on Tuesday, but were disappointed for being left behind by the airline.
A source close to the terminal alleged that the flight was over-booked and the profilers seized the opportunity to collect some tips from some of the passengers in order to be checked and fly with the flight.
One of the affected passengers, Mrs. Justina Eghaghe Otaniyen from Benin Edo State, lamented that she arrived the airport as early as 12 for the 2:40pm flight to Milan, but was not airlifted by the airline despite arriving early.
According to her, when the affected passengers visited the Consumer Protection Department (CPD) of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) to lodge their complaints, the affected passengers were directed to send an email message to the airline for rebook and missed of flight.
After the email messages, she claimed that NCAA officials at the airport informed them that they would only be airlifted on the 31st March, 2017, stressing that no arrangement was made for them by the airline.
Air Meridiana operates into Lagos twice weekly; Tuesdays and Thursdays.
When our correspondent visited the terminal, the airline’s counters were closed.
Mrs. Otaniyen said: I arrived here at 12:21pm for a 2:40pm flight. As at the time I got here, the passengers were still being checked-in, but all of a sudden, the airline stopped checking us in and refused to collect our luggage. But, an official of the airline later allowed some of the passengers to check in even those that came after us.
“I leave in Benin and I’ve been in Lagos since Monday; I even paid for hotel accommodation, but now, I don’t have anywhere else to go. As I am talking to you now, the airline has closed its counters. We immediately went to the CPD of NCAA who directed us to send the airline an email stating that we missed our flights even when we didn’t.
“I don’t know why they are treating us like this in our own country. They don’t even have the courtesy of telling us what happened and any arrangement they have for us. I don’t have anywhere to go now because an official of NCAA told us to come back on March 31.”
Nigerianflightdeck got the report from the Regulatory body which read, “Missed flight due lateness of passengers on flight IG 3722(MILL)ETD 14:30HRS :- About 14 Meridiana passengers came to CP desk to complain that the airline denied them checkiing-in. When contacted as to the reason why they were denied Checking in; Mr Kabiru (Duty Manager) informed that the passengers came late to the check-in counter as counter opened since 08:30hrs and closed at 13:00hrs even though the counter was supposed to be statutorily closed at 12:30hrs.”
“ He then came to address the passengers from the Boarding Gates after the flight Departure and informed them that they should forward their details to the airline office at Milan for flight Rescheduling Charges free through an email: [email protected] ‘
“He assured them they will be rescheduled on request through the email. He further stated that he has educated their passengers who normally comes direct to catch their Flights from Benin Edo state or outside Lagos of the need to come to Lagos at least a day before the flight date.”
“ Their next Flight which falls in summer flight schedule is to commence on 31/03/3017 and to be continued on every Friday of the week. The estimated time of departure is put at 21:45hrs, counter opens at 19:30hrs and closes at 20:00hrs. Also Present was Mr Chukwu, FAAN AVSEC.”
However, a source who refused to comment officially said that the whole thing was a scam querying how 40 of the airlines passengers would be late if the airline had not over-booked and was sifting through passengers.
“ Look at this mess, you could get five, maybe even 10 late but except these passengers over 40 came in on the same bus from all their various destinations, then the airline ground staff is lying, they over-booked unless they would charge the passengers for the reschedule.”