At least five airlines are now counting their losses over workers’ unions’ shutdown of the Murtala Muhammed Airport II (MMA2) Terminal in Lagos.
The unions, under the aegis of the Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN), the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE) and the National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers (NAAPE), yesterday shut the busy terminal in protest against alleged anti-labour activities and sack of 20 members by management of the facility.
Notwithstanding the intervention of the police and the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) to broker peace, the unions threatened to keep the terminal on lockdown for as long as the MMA2 management refuses to recall the sacked workers.
The disruption began as early as 6:00 a.m. when union buses and vans were used to block the two main access gates into MMA2. Hundreds of intending passengers were stranded, even as their plights were unhelpful by the morning downpour in Lagos. Grossly affected were the operations of airlines like Dana Air, Med-View Airlines Plc, Azman Airlines, Aero Contractors and Overland, all of which operate from the terminal.
The airlines regretted the action, describing it as a sad development with “huge consequences” on already struggling airlines.
A Chief Operating Officer said all his scheduled flights out of Lagos were grounded with three aircraft parked.
“Each of that aircraft does at least six frequencies and each flight is worth about N4 million. You can do the mathematics; that is several millions of naira due to a poorly thought-out action of a few people. My anger is who pays for these losses – catering services, idling aircraft and staff salary for this inert period?
“Yet, we all are complaining that airlines are dying and don’t know what is killing them. Why won’t they die in this kind of environment? It is just so shameful.”
Also, Corporate Communication Manager of Dana Air, Kingsley Ezenwa, also confirmed the losses, though added that their airlines resorted to alternative arrangements that ensured that operations were not totally grounded.
“It is quite a challenge. For instance, the first flight out of Lagos had 110 vacant seats. That is millions of naira. In times like this, some passengers would just think that the entire operations have been grounded and fail to show up. That is why we are using all avenues to reach them to ensure they come for boarding as at when due.
“Why should the airlines and passengers suffer this when they are not even aware of what is going on?
This is a matter that should ordinarily have been resolved amicably without noise. But this is Nigeria and this is Nigerian aviation industry. It is so sad,” Ezenwa said.