As domestic airlines’ capacity continue to overwhelm existing infrastructure leading to abysmal passenger facilitation, Chairman West Link Airline, Captain Ibrahim Mshelia has tasked the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria ( FAAN) to extend operation time at the Lagos Airport to midnight and open up the old Abuja International Airport Terminal for domestic use.
According to him, these are some quick fixes barring any expansion to existing terminal infrastructure that would enable facilitation and reduce congestion while staving off chaos at the nation’s airports.
Mshelia who analysed the current situation airlines are grappling with said airlines were growing with more aircraft and route expansion but the current terminals are facing capacity crunch unable to meet up.
He theorised that if five(5) airlines all with aircraft of over 100 passenger capacity were to take off at 7 o’clock from one of this terminals even at 2 minutes processing time before they would be done with half of these five airlines’ capacity there is already a massive delay.
He said, “I think over the years what we’ve done is we just keep taking in the airlines and we don’t do the infrastructure expansion. For example, Arik, Air Peace, Ibom Air, Aero, Dana these five airlines’ alone, by the time they schedule 7 o’clock departure and all of them can schedule 7 o’clock departure no doubt but how many of them do take in.
“Averagely, let’s say the passengers on these aeroplanes will be between 120-170 depends on the aircraft, if you are going to do 120 by 5 airlines, they need to check them in( I’m just giving you a typical example) that would be 600 passengers, now that will take you quite some time to check in because of the space and infrastructural deficit, it takes up to five minutes to check in one passenger, it does. So, even if you say two minutes to check in a passenger, how many counters would you need to be able to check in those people within the two hour rate that they give?
“They give you two hours to check in passengers so you will need 300 check in counters if you’re going to use 2 minutes by passengers. If you have no space, then you have congestion and then you have chaos and then you have commotion at the end. So passenger delay, sorting their baggage, access to the tarmac, move the bags, number of vehicles that can do it and so on.
“See there are so many things that are combined the infrastructure that we are talking about, there is infrastructure but the capacity of airlines have overwhelmed it and one wonders why all these years nothing was done to expand it until only recently that they are doing some expansion.
On how to fix these he said terminal expansion is the way since people will still come with their luggage stressing that even introducing a slot system would not be favourable to domestic airlines as it will limit their capacity.
“A slot system for domestic airlines shouldn’t be the case, you should have more terminals being built.”
“Let me tell you a quick fix, the quick fix is, I know there are spaces in Abuja that are not being used, open it up to the domestic airlines like the old international airport terminal it is not being used properly so why don’t you open all of it that would solve the problems.
“In Lagos another thing you can also do is (between these two airports, to be frank with you there is no problem with this daylight operations) you see Abuja bound traffic is checking in Warri bound traffic is checking in with others checking in this same Abuja and this same Lagos, so the quick fix is open up all the airport to midnight, if you do so, the airlines on their own will naturally adjust their schedules and give space, it would naturally mitigate this without doing anything to the current infrastructure.
” If you open the airport to close at midnight, you have solved a lot of the problems already and in Abuja open up the old international terminal that is not being used,” he suggested.
On Facilitation Critical Equipment:
On breakdown of critical infrastructure, he was miffed at the sequence safety and facilitation infrastructure like conveyor belts and screening machines become inoperable stating that it is so due to nonchalance and/or incompetence.
Mshelia said,”To begin with, conveyor belt breaking down once in a year is acceptable. However, I do not see a reason why a conveyor belt will break down in the first place, or screening machines should break down in the first place. Which means the people who are manning it are either nonchalant or incompetent.
” Particularly, for me I am a pilot and I’ve visited a lot of countries inside the region and beyond, I’ve never heard of these equipment breaking down. I’ve never heard it anywhere except Nigeria because we do not allow our best hands to run our affairs.
“The thing is supposed to be serviced every two minutes for example, money is voted ( if you go to the books it’s voted) but if you go to the people managing the conveyor belt they’d tell you they have not serviced it in the last 20 years so where is the money going to? Corruption is killing these equipment at the airports, lack of attention due to corruption because every machine being designed has its own servicing procedures and age, this is an airport we are talking about and everything is done for safety and timing.
” Conveyor belts will not break down and if it does it’s once in a blue moon, it’s acceptable but the rate at which I hear conveyor belt breaking down and look at the obsolete things we have in the airport, why can’t we upgrade then when we should upgrade them? So it is still about our intention to do the right things or not.”