I arrived at Lagos airport at 2pm this afternoon to the usual chaos - touts, noise, everywhere people helter skelter and no information about which airline is leaving next. As I had a big ghana-mus-go with me, it was not easy checking each desk to find out who was leaving for Abuja. Bellview was fully booked, but some guy whispered that he could 'arrange it.' I laughed.
The only available flight was Aero at 19:45, with check-in at 18:30. I bought my ticket and resigned myself to a few hours in the utter discomfort of the domestic terminal's departure lounge. The place was crowded, with not a spare seat in sight, so I bought a Star, sat on the floor and opened up my laptop. I'm sure a hundred minds were thinking in unison 'these oyinbo/onyeocha/baturi people sha.'
The hall slowly emptied as flights to Calabar and Kaduna left. At 18:30 I was alone in the hall (strange I thought). The Aero counter was awash with arguments. The simple task of sticking a number to the ticket and checking in luggage was clearly a bit too difficult for an airline
with decades of experience of dealing with the Nigerian factor. People were pulling at each other, cutting the queue - all the usual desperate tactics. I did my bit to calm people down and chill the line down some.
Then it was my turn. I checked in my gmg, only to be told the plane was not leaving from this terminal - we would have to go by bus to the new terminal. I had visions of buses never arriving and planes leaving without us...
How wrong I was. After 5 minutes, a minibus arrived and whisked us to MMA2 as it is known. It was at this point that the frustrations of the near 6 hour wait washed away. MMA2 is easily the best designed, smartest, swishest etc etc airport in Nigeria. The main concourse is huge - cathedral sized. There's a quiet hum of efficiency about the place, with escalators leading up to the various levels. Apparently, it only opened yesterday - for the Aero flights. I took a sneaky picture of the main concourse on the way up (the second picture here) - only to find that others were taking pictures in the departure lounge with abandon. No one in a uniform came up and did a militaristic admonishment. Wow. The guy behind me in the queue for the scanners couldnt contain himself. He called someone up, "Hi. Yes its me. I'm in the new domestic terminal. Its soooo beautiful.' Inside the departure lounge, the waiting travellers seemed at ease with the world like I have not seen in a Nigerian airport before. Let's hope that the big spaces they have for retail are filled with cafes and enjoyably designed and laid out shops, rather than the Mama-Put excuses the old airport had..
Even though the security situation has gone from dire to terrible in the past few days, the new MMA2 airport is something to be proud of in Nigeria. It just goes to show how important good design is in any society.