People sighing. People muttering. People hissing.
Some others are doing a combination of these and more under their breaths. A few, pushed to their limits, are on their seats venting their frustrations out loud - fists in the air, veins jutting out, saliva flying in all directions.
It is a typical day in any airport in Nigeria. The delays are inexplicable to the passengers and by the airlines, which charge exorbitant fees for the hour-long flights between Lagos, Abuja, or Port Harcourt, Enugu, Kano, Owerri or Calabar. Wherever you are going, you can rest assured you will get there later than planned.
Passengers sit in uncomfortable and choked lobbies of cramped terminal buildings exchanging horror stories of their different experiences. Chijoke, who entered the MM2 terminal building in Lagos for an Arik Airline flight to Abuja at 10:30am, landed in Abuja at 10:30pm. Safiya was at Abuja International until 10pm before the announcement came that her mini vacation to Accra had been cancelled, due to the unavailability of a flight. The following day, just to get her refund, she was on another queue.
Similarly, Emma made two long trips to the airport before finally boarding his Abuja-bound flight from Lagos. He got home at midnight, but counted himself lucky: “I would have missed my engagement party if the flight was on the same day,” he said.
Or is it Charles, a senior citizen from Washington DC, who insisted on a refund from the airline after a 6-hour wait from Akwa Ibom to Abuja? When the airline wouldn't comply, he threatened to 'kill' somebody to prove he meant business. Whether his threat was serious or not is irrelevant; what is relevant is that airlines frustrate passengers without remorse.
Passengers end up missing appointments, delaying meetings, arriving late, and not to mention the added stress they suffer. Air travel in Nigeria simply ruins your day mostly because the airline staff are rude and ill informed, and not in the least manner helpful.
These experiences are not in any way tied to any specific airlines. Some may be worse than others in their time keeping, but the frustration they inflict on the traveling public cuts across the board with all domestic carriers in Nigeria.
Worse still, the conditions at the nation’s capital have to be the most pathetic and hazardous: passengers are made to 'trek' to and from terminal building and aircraft. Men, women, children, old, handicapped and all, it does not matter. Walk they must, as they inhale noxious aviation fumes, suffer deafening engines, and wait for taxiing aircraft to pass by.
This story is from a TOTALLY frustrated passenger who after only 2 hours of sleep, arrived at Abuja airport at 6:00am for an 8:00am Air Nigeria flight to Lagos; checked in 6 pieces of luggage and paid N20,000 for the excess, waited on the cue again as counter staff hand-counted bundles of Naira notes; waited with no explanations from the airline, until eventually called up, then driven by bus from the international wing to the domestic (lucky us), where the planes were packed; waited a bit more before boarding and finally taking to the skies at (not a joke) 11:11am on May 11 2011.
Needless to say, after settling down to the mundane 'circumstances beyond our control' apologies, one could hear the snores going up like loud whistles of varied pitches, from one end of the plane to the other. Who could blame them?
In a country with officials and decision-makers who make foreign trips and enjoy working amenities and infrastructures in other countries, the big question remains: Why can't we just get it right in Nigeria?