The peaceful environment of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos is currently stampeded as Arik Air’s passengers to London Heathrow Airport have been beached at the airport.
Meanwhile, the baggage of some of the passengers who returned to the country last weekend from London, some of them four days ago, are still being expected.
It was gathered that the passengers who were hitherto supposed to depart the shores of the country to London do not even know when they will eventually be airlifted by the airline. Some of them are supposed to be going to other destinations in Europe.
When our correspondent visited the terminal today, he observed that Arik’s counters as well as its office inside the building were deserted, perhaps in response to threats from some of the passengers who vowed to disrupt their operations if they were not airlifted out of the country.
Our correspondent also observed that the entire airline’s counters to Accra, Ghana and Johannesburg, South Africa, were shut without any explanation to the passengers.
The airline’s staff at the terminal were said to have been unable to offer the London-bound stranded passengers any explanation on why they have not been able to travel since Sunday as scheduled.
Chris Adebowale, one of the stranded passengers, said he had been coming to the airport since Sunday, hoping to catch his flight to London, but has been unable to do so.
He explained that he was due for medical checkup in London on Friday, and lamented he might not be able to keep the appointment due to the failure of the airline.
“This is the third time I would be experiencing this shoddy arrangement from Arik Air,” he said, explaining his various experiences since Sunday.
“I was originally scheduled to travel last Sunday, but we couldn’t go for no just reason as there is no one talking to us from the airline. Also, I was here yesterday, hoping that I would be airlifted, but it’s all a lie. Today now, we are here and in fact, there is no one in sight. As it is, we are hopeless and we don’t know what to do.”
Another passenger, Abimbola Ifeoluwa, lamented that she actually traveled to the country by Arik last week, but that her baggage was yet to be retrieved, over 96 hours later.
Mrs. Ifeoluwa maintained that her luggage was checked in at Heathrow Airport, and expressed her surprise to discover on arrival at Lagos Airport that the luggage was not at the baggage reclaim area. She however displayed a notice to our correspondent which assured the passengers that their luggage would be retrieved today by 4pm.
The paper also promised to pay the sum of N50,000 each to the passengers if their luggage failed to arrive today. However, as at the time of filing this report, it was not certain if the luggage would arrive as promised.
In a statement, Arik Air spokesman Ola Adebanji attributed the usage of a smaller aircraft, a Boeing 737-800, to operate the Lagos-London Heathrow route due to maintenance on the wide-body A330-200 aircraft, as some of the reasons for the chaos.
He added: “One of the airline’s Airbus A330-200 aircraft had been hit by a handling company at John F Kennedy International Airport New York on Thursday, December 1, 2016 consequently triggering the B737-800 to be deployed on the Lagos-London route.”
He said that to avoid cancellation of the Lagos-London Heathrow flights, a smaller aircraft had to be allocated on the route to minimise the inconvenience to passengers.
“The airline was constrained in capacity from a wide-body A330-200 aircraft to a narrow-body B737-800 aircraft and thus had to leave some of the passengers’ baggage behind in London. Passengers were however duly informed of this capacity restriction at the check-in desk at London Heathrow Airport and were advised of the possibility that some of their baggage will have to be sent on subsequent flights as per space availability.”