The Italian air carrier operating flights from Italy to Nigeria and vice versa, Air Meridiana, abandoned no fewer than 40 of its passengers at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA) in Lagos on Tuesday.
The passengers, who arrived the airport between 9 a.m. and noon for a 2:40 p.m. flight to Milan, were told they could not board the flight because it was overbooked.
Air Meridiana operates flights into Nigeria twice weekly on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Officials of the Consumer Protection Department (CPD) of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) attached to the airport told the affected passengers to file complaints with the airline via email.
One of the passengers, Justina Eghaghe Otaniyen, lamented that after sending an email to the airline, she was told by an NCAA official that her flight was moved to March 31, but the airline did not comment on the matter.
A source close to the terminal alleged that the flight was overbooked and the profilers used the opportunity to collect tips from some of the passengers in order to be checked-in on the flight.
Mrs. Otaniyen insisted that she arrived at the airport early and ought to have been boarded on the plane, but wondered why she and 39 others were left behind by the carrier.
“I arrived here at 12:21 p.m. for a 2:40 p.m. flight. As at the time I got here, the passengers were still being checked-in, but all of a sudden, the airline stopped checking us in and refused to collect our luggage. But an official of the airline later allowed some of the passengers to check in, even those that came after us,” she told our correspondent.
“I live in Benin and I’ve been in Lagos since Monday. I even paid for hotel accommodation, but now I don’t have anywhere else to go. As I am talking to you now, the airline has closed its counters. We immediately went to the NCAA who directed us to send the airline an email stating that we missed our flights even when we didn’t.
“I don’t know why they are treating us like this in our own country. They don’t even have the courtesy of telling us what happened and any arrangement they have for us. I don’t have anywhere to go now because an official of the NCAA told us to come back on March 31,” Mrs. Otaniyen said.