A large number of pasengers were stranded at the Abuja airport from Friday night till Saturday morning. Each of the stranded passengers has paid thousands of naira to be flown from the country’s capital to Lagos by the Abuja airport. However, the airline failed to transport them.
The airline’s message to the passengers said the flight has been rescheduled ‘due to operational reasons’. However, later it was announced that the flight has been delayed even further.
The plane from Lagos, which was also a delayed flight, arrived Abuja some minutes before midnight. After the passengers in the plane disembarked, the Lagos-bound passengers queued and were ready to board.
“Surprisingly, the pilot just came out with his crew and said he was not told to fly back to Lagos. He said he would not fly,” one of the passengers recalls.
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A source at the airline hinted it might have been a case of ‘aircraft on ground,’ meaning a serious engine trouble.
Thus, the passengers were left stranded at the tarmac in the middle of the night with no official announcement. Some staff of the airline, however, told them they would be flown to Lagos at 7:00 a.m. on Saturday, but did not provide any information as to where the passengers would stay for the next seven hours before the flight.
The Abuja airport is one of many being remodelled by the aviation ministry, with only makeshift facilities available for both arriving and departing passengers. The airport currently has no facility for a resting area or a hotel.
Some 30 passengers went to sleep inside the nearby plane, but at about 3:00 a.m. on Saturday the soldiers came and ushered them out. Many others slept on the floor at arrival lounge of the airport.
The flight was again delayed on Saturday, with the almost 60 passengers finally travelling to Lagos at about 8:00 a.m.
No apologies or compensation were offered to the passengers. The Aero Contractors officials refused to make any comments.
“I think this kind of thing can only happen in Nigeria where customers are treated by an airline as if they were just rats trapped inside a plane, and the pilots and crew members disappear just like that,” a source at the airline said.