Since SITA took over the Airport Operations Management System at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, there have been hiccups in the check-in process. Chinedu Eze reports
It was with high expectations that airlines welcomed the world renowned Societe Internationale de Telecommunication Aeronautiques (SITA) when it took over from Maevis Limited to provide Common User Terminal Equipment (CUTE) and other services which are part of the Airport Operations Management System (AOMS) for international passengers at the Lagos airport.
When SITA took over these services after a disagreement between the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and Maevis Limited, a top official of FAAN told THISDAY in an interview that within weeks, SITA would transform the facilitation system at the airport, but many months after, it is a grimace of disappointment that painted the faces of airline officials and passenger-handling staff who strive daily to ensure that passengers are checked in within their flight schedules.
In fact, the airline officials and the passenger-handling companies which are behind passenger facilitation lost some technology driven services they used to enjoy when Maevis was in charge. One of the passenger-handling workers told THISDAY that they had lost the Flight Information Display System and also the electronic display that bearing names of airlines and flight schedule.
He said that nothing new was added as it was hoped for and that coupled with conveyor belt which breaks down often and power outage which temporarily paralysis facilitation activities, the past seemed to be better than the present.
The source also noted that the check in system these days are usually dingy and dark, a situation that could be described as retrogressive when compared with fully lighted system that was inherited by SITA.
An insider told THISDAY that SITA has not been able to provide extra services to better its predecessors because it didn’t have access to the codes to open up the system operated by Maevis which was built by the later.
“Those things that were provided by Maevis are still there, including their logo on boarding pass and it is the same system that SITA is using. SITA provides this kind of services in major airports of the world but it is surprising that there was no discernible improvement when it took over the CUTE system of the Lagos airport,” a source told THISDAY.
A source that has experience on the workings of Maevis equipment said that SITA did not have the data of the aircraft before it lands, disclosing that when Maevis was in charge it deployed aircraft monitoring system, which located the aircraft 30 minutes before it lands at the airport and this system would collect the needed data from the aircraft, including its registration, landing weight and other information and work with these facts before the aircraft landed.
“This system records the movement of an aircraft in the last 30 days and Maevis has data base that had all the registered aircraft in the world, but now SITA manually carry out some of its activities and then send its data to Geneva. All these cause delays which Maevis did not have when it was operating.”
But a FAAN source told THISDAY that it was not because of no better service that the agency asked Maevis to go; it was because it was ripping it off of its resources.
“All these that were mentioned did not say that facilitation stopped. We still check in passengers like before; we still check in the luggage and we never faced any problem which we have never surmounted. But above all, FAAN is earning huge resources now since Maevis left. We do not regret their leaving because the transaction was a rip-off. If they had continued to operate till end of this year, FAAN would have become bankrupt,” the FAAN official said.
FAAN General Manager, Corporate Communication, Yakubu Dati, explained to THISDAY that the boarding passes given to passengers still bear the logo of Maevis because the material belongs to FAAN, having been purchased with FAAN’s money by Maevis.
“It will amount to waste of resources to dispose of boarding passes that are FAAN’s property, and were produced at high cost. New boarding passes will be produced when the existing ones are exhausted. Besides, that the passes bear Maevis logo does not affect their usefulness. For example, when a country changes its currency notes the existing or old ones are not discarded immediately but used along with new ones over time until they are completely withdrawn from circulation.”
Dati said the bigger FIDS (Flight Information Display System) were supposed to have been provided by Maevis but the company did not.
“SITA is almost ready with the new screens but dismantling the old ones and replacing them with new one will take a longer time because of the different technologies involved. The new FIDS will be ready early next year.”
The general manager also explained that the poor lighting at the counters are being addressed, saying that it resulted from the disruption in the cabling network as a result of the remodelling work going on at the terminal.
“FAAN is definitely generating more revenue since SITA took over, since more airlines and concessionaires have come in and FAAN collects its revenue directly and pays SITA the appropriate commission; besides, the 35 per cent of FAAN’s revenue fraudulently deducted at source by Maevis in the old order is no longer obtainable.”
However, FAAN did not substantiate its claim of improvement in revenue with figures, even when prompted.
On cargo handling which is said to take a longer time since SITA took over, Dati said it was not true that cargo handling now took a longer time to process under the new arrangement, noting that SITA was standardising its operations based on expertise and experience acquired from running similar platforms globally.
“By the first quarter of 2013, the SITA technology will become more evident at the designated airports. Technology change takes time to effect, considering the sensitive equipment involved.”
So much is promised for early next year and many anxious passengers and other airport users hope that FAAN will abide by its promise.