After over five month hiatus, the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos came alive on Saturday as two airlines, Middle East Airlines and British Airways recommenced flights into Nigeria’s commercial nerve centre.
The country’s airspace was closed to international flight operations on March 23, 2020 following the outbreak of the deadly COVID-19. First to touchdown was Middle East Airlines (MEA) from Beirut, Lebanon with 222 passengers that came in at 2.30pm.
The mandatory water canon was performed on the aircraft, signifying the recommencement of flights into Lagos. British Airways was next to arrive at 5.45 pm; with many of the passengers expressing joy for the re-opening of Nigeria’s airspace for international flights. As early as 9.00 am, over a hundred passengers of MEA filed in at the check – in counters with their documents and luggage for security check at the departure hall section of the airport.
Most of the excited passengers all wearing face masks with observance of social distancing on the floor markings took their turns to get their boarding passes before proceeding for immigration protocols through the boarding gates.
The Beirut-bound flight, it was learnt had passengers traveling though the length and breadth of the Middle East as their final destination. Manager, South-West, Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Victoria Shina-Aba, who spoke to journalists at the airport, said it has been five months and 13 days since MMIA was closed to international flights.
Shina-Aba, however, disclosed that while the airport was on lock down, the airport processed 192 evacuation and special flights and 1,404 cargo flights. She said the airport is coming back to life after a lot of things have been put in place to ensure travellers have confidence in travelling again.
On the various steps passengers will have to go through, she said, departing passengers are no longer expected to come to the airport with many people as nontravelling passengers can only stay at the drop off zone of the terminal. “We have been able to demarcate the gates.
The first gate is for crew and staff only. The B and C gates are for passengers. We have another gate for elderly and special people. At each of these gates, we have water provided for passengers to wash their hands. We have bag sanitising stations where passengers get their bags sanitized.
Then the temperatures of passengers are taken. “At the passenger gate, we have infra-red cameras that can capture many people at the same time. If you try to access the place without face masks, it will indicate that your face mask is not on. We have signs everywhere telling people what to do. The security will not allow passengers without face masks in. We have sanitizers at the gates.
“If you have a temperature higher than the normal, the Port Health will take you to a place that has been provided just to sit down for a while and check you again after some minutes. If you are okay, you will be allowed to travel,” she explained. She said that FAAN has done some social distance markings and people queue according to the markings and passengers and staff do not have direct contact.