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Murtala Muhammud Airport - Lagos, Nigeria

Murtala Muhammud Airport - Lagos, Nigeria

Old Dec 7, 11, 8:45 pm
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Join Date: Dec 2011
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Murtala Muhammud Airport - Lagos, Nigeria

We just flew to Cape Town from Portland, Oregon via Houston, Lagos, J'burg and then Cape Town. As we were using United FF miles we were on Continental to Lagos and then switched to South African Air. I am writing this in the hopes someone will find it helpful. There was NOTHING on any forum about this airport.

We were carrying medical supplies that were quite heavy. As we were using business class we had the ability to check 3 bags each. We checked 3 bags in total but they were oversize and heavy. We each had 2 carry on as all valuable electronics, medications, cameras must travel with you. Even so, being unable to lock the luggage, I was concerned as the equipment was valuable and we had an 8 hour layover in Lagos.

When we arrived we were directed into a Que to immigration/passport control. Because we were considered "in transit" our passports were retained by the officer and we were told to collect our luggage and then return to him. The luggage carousels were down about 6 stairs from the passport desks and only 1 of 3 were operating. I waited at the top with our 4 carry on while my husband went to collect the luggage. It total it took 2 hours to pick up all 3 pieces. He then located an officer who held our passports and instructed us to follow him. We trailed after him as he took us out of the building, around the corner to another door and to the base of 2 sets of stairs (about 20 each level) which we were expected to climb with our luggage. There is no elevator.

The officer gives no assistance and we managed with the help of a Frenchman to get all of our luggage together in a pile upstairs. Luckily there were 2 of us so we had eyes on our boxes and luggage most of the time. Upstairs we were inundated with "porters" who wanted to help however we were advised on the plane NOT to let them get their hands on our things. There is no way to tell a legitimate porter from a thief. I spotted a man with a red vest that said "Exon - Mobile" on it. Several men from the plane said they were being escorted through the airport by legitimate porters provided by the oil company so I quickly asked the man if that was what he did and if so, could he help us. He managed to grab a trolley and loaded our luggage on it ( keeping a very excited "porter" at bay [probably it was his trolly] and took us to a small office labeled immigration that was located away from the departure gates and next to the security stations. Our immigration escort had disappeared.

We had to leave our luggage outside and were told to take a seat. This office was no more than 8'X8' and had 4 chairs. Inside a very loud and heated argument was taking place between 5 male immigration officers, a woman who was some kind of gate person over the medical condition of a quiet elderly Sikh who was in the company of his middle aged son. Apparently the older gentleman was singled out because the lady felt he was ill. Apparently he was shivering and shaking and they were not going to let him enter Nigeria if he was sick. This scene took 35 minutes and it escalated to shouting on all sides and lots of hand gestures and foot stomping. Eventually the lady threw up her hands and left. We then were introduced to a woman who retained our passports and took us (without our luggage) through to a waiting area where she advised us she would be back in 45 minutes to collect us and escort us to the South African Airline desk which would not open until 5:30 PM. Even though we had an 8 hour wait, we could not enter the business class lounge without a SAA boarding pass and we could NOT get that in Houston. It had to be issued by SAA air and they did not staff the desk until 5:30 PM.

We again passed out of security, collected our luggage and proceeded to the SAA desk. This immigration lady pushed through all the people and spoke first to the passport checking people, then to the customs people who for a few minutes appeared to want to open and inspect my bags and finally to the departure desk. Our luggage was finally checked in and we were issued our boarding passes. By this time it was after 6:00 PM (we had arrived at 1:30 PM). She then returned us to the very same security check point we had already passed through and we were again asked to go through security prior to going to the SAA lounge. Eventually that happened and to our utter amazement she did not seen to expect a tip for her trouble. She said good bye and left.

Our flight left at 10:00 PM and we needed every bit of that 4.5 hours to navigate that airport and it's various processes. Surprising to me nothing was taken from our bags and eventually as we unpacked we are missing nothing. That says a lot as we had another collect/recheck luggage in J'burg. Having our passports out of our possession for so many hours made us both uncomfortable. In anticipation of that possibility we each carried a paper copy of our passport, the address of the US embassy and a copy of our SAA retired persons visa. I hope this is helpful.
Nancywim is offline  
Old Dec 7, 11, 10:36 pm
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Thanks for the informative trip report. It's a good thing you had plenty of time between planes for all that nonsense with immigration!
Kevin AA is online now  
Old Dec 8, 11, 1:11 am
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Wow, what an experience. I would have to say that after reading your post, I'll try even harder in future to never have to fly into Lagos.
Yachtman is offline  
Old Dec 8, 11, 8:15 am
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Very informative, indeed.
I went in Lagos once, but did not experience the connection process...

Looks like a hard one, and I bet you would never try it again!
A quick question: why did you have to re-check you luggage and pass immigration? An US to South Africa connection would not imply a customs clearence in Nigeria for my perspective.

MCT for a CO to SA connection states 75 minutes minimum (seems that you needed way more there!).
Also, CO has an interline agreement with SA, so you definitely could have avoided clearing customs in LOS by checking your bag to your final destination in Portland (you need to insist A LOT to get that done, especially with lazy or untrained check-in agents).
olivedel is offline  
Old Dec 8, 11, 9:10 am
Join Date: Jan 2010
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Nice to hear that nothings changed over the years.

I have been robbed left, right and centre there by officials who seem to have a permanently outstretched hand.

Surprising to me nothing was taken from our bags
Ooops, things have changed then. MM airport has always been (and reading recent reports) will always be the pits of Africa. My advice to anyone visiting Africa is avoid it at all costs.

Nice report by the way.
ppgstf is offline  
Old Dec 8, 11, 11:51 am
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Welcome to Africa!
CBear is offline  
Old Dec 9, 11, 8:39 pm
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Wow! Cool report on LOS!
jlisi984 is offline  
Old Dec 10, 11, 2:38 pm
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Lost in LOS thanks for sharing.
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Old Dec 10, 11, 4:11 pm
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Wow. Quite an ordeal. Glad it all worked out.

I was queuing at security at LGA earlier this week, and they still have the sign up advising passengers that Lagos does not maintain effective security procedures (how many lga-los pax could there be?). That sign should probably be clarified to say that while their procedures are not effective, readers shouldn't construe them to also be not extensive!

Had you done the minimum 75 minute connection, you would have been toast it sounds like.

Welcome to FT. Thanks for the detailed post.
NYBanker is offline  
Old Dec 11, 11, 7:22 am
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Originally Posted by ppgstf
Nice to hear that nothings changed over the years.

I have been robbed left, right and centre there by officials who seem to have a permanently outstretched hand.
Yeah, thanks for posting this - very insightful. I'm more impressed the OP managed to get through this all without any "Happy Weekend Money"
ironmanjt is offline  
Old Dec 12, 11, 9:00 am
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Good first post! Welcome to FT. ^

It certainly sounds like an adventure you could have done without. Glad you made it through OK. Thanks for sharing.
RCyyz is offline  
Old Dec 13, 11, 7:29 pm
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Originally Posted by ppgstf
Nice to hear that nothings changed over the years.

I have been robbed left, right and centre there by officials who seem to have a permanently outstretched hand.

Ooops, things have changed then. MM airport has always been (and reading recent reports) will always be the pits of Africa. My advice to anyone visiting Africa is avoid it at all costs.

Nice report by the way.
Takes two to tango. Sometimes people are too willing to offer "incentives" to bypass procedures or get to the front of the lines ahead of the "natives".
havepointswilltravel is offline  

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