The Lufthansa Flight LH566 from Frankfurt was intended for the Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos as a direct flight, but the pilot lied to the passengers on Friday saying the Lagos airport was closed and caused the flight to be diverted to Cotonou, Togo, and afterwards to Malabo, the capital of Equatorial Guinea.
THISDAY reported that the flight was scheduled to arrive Lagos around 5:45 pm on March 3, 2023, before continuing on to Malabo with about 15 passengers, but it instead arrived in Lagos at 2:00 am on March 4, 2023.
Investigations showed that the Lagos airport was open throughout on March 3, and there was no evidence that any other airline was coming to Lagos diverted flight to any other airport whether within Nigeria or outside the country.
When asked if the Lagos airport was closed on March 3, 2023, General Manager, Public Affairs, Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, Mrs. Faithful Hope-Ivbaze replied, “There was never a day/time when MMA was closed. In the upcoming days, if there is any closure, I will let you know.”
Speaking to the to insiders at the agency, and the NOTAM desk also confirmed that the airport was not closed at any point on March 3, 2023. The world is informed whenever an airport is closed through Notice to Airmen, which is maintained by the Nigeria Airspace Management Agency.
The experiences of the passengers on board Lufthansa Flight LH568 were described by eyewitnesses.
“On March 2, 2023 at midday, they departed from Frankfurt for Lagos and Malabo in Equatorial Guinea. Around 5.45 p.m., this flight was due to arrive in Lagos. The pilot informed the passengers that they couldn’t land because the Lagos airport was shut when they arrived in Lagos.
According to the pilot, “I brought them to Contonou airport and landed while waiting for Lagos airport to open.” Family members waiting for the flight were in a panic as they were there for about three hours. They started calling their relatives to find out what was occurring in the Lagos airport.
“At that point, travelers were aware that the Lagos airport was open. Now they commanded the pilot to fly them to Lagos. During lengthy debate, the pilot said he was going to drop the 15 passengers at Malabo before coming back to land at the Lagos airport.
“The pilot took this action. By 2:00 a.m., they arrived. The pilot threatened them and claimed he would call the police to evacuate them when they insisted they wouldn’t land in Lagos without the airline making necessary arrangements for them.”
The return flight from Lagos to Frankfurt was delayed due to the airplane’s detour, therefore Lufthansa management sent out a notification to the passengers from Lagos who were traveling to Frankfurt. The March 3, 2023, circular read, “Dear Lufthansa guest, Your LH569/3 March flight from Lagos to Frankfurt is currently delayed owing to an operational issue. Before arriving in Lagos, the incoming aircraft was diverted to land in Cotonou, Benin, and subsequently Malabo, Equatorial Guinea.
“Lufthansa would like to express its sincere regret for this delay and any inconvenience it may have brought about to your trip. The plane was scheduled to arrive in Lagos at around 01:15 (it actually arrived at 2:00 am), and we would try to manage a quick turnaround.
Lufthansa, KLM, Air France, British Airways, and other airlines fly into the Murtala Muhammed International Airport every day between 4:00 and 7:00.
Nevertheless, a more thorough examination discovered that the Lufthansa airplane looped outside Lagos/Benin Republic airspace before it landed in Cotonou, according to Flightradar24 Live Flight Tracker.
THISDAY met with Zenith Tours’ head of business development and Olu Ohunayo, spokesman for the Aviation Round Table, who were monitoring the issue.
According to Lufthansa’s standard operating procedure, the pilot must have taken some sort of safety step, the man stated. The reason being that an airline cannot purposefully take off from Frankfurt and land in Cotonou, incurring more costs, increasing the crew’s workload, and upsetting its passengers.