Hosea Kutako International Airport chaos continues unabated – eyewitness encounter
Tempers flared last week Friday at Hosea Kutako International Airport near Windhoek when total chaos reigned, sometimes breaking into low-level pandemonium, when two international and two regional flights were scheduled for departure within one hour.
The queues at the check-in counters were the first indication that the airport’s infrastructure and manpower will not be able to handle the overload. Upon joining the queue, travellers were warned by airport personnel to expedite their check-in as much as possible since the real bottleneck was still ahead at the police security checkpoint.
A second queue formed at the entrance to immigration and security but at this point there was still no visible supervision, or any form of managing the anxious crowd. This queue, for almost two hours stretched along the entire length of the passage connecting departures and arrivals, and it extended outside the airport building beyond the entrance doors. The ostensible reason for the queue was to prevent a bottleneck at the security checkpoint, but all efforts to manage the throng of people proved to be futile.
After about an hour and a half in this queue, all passengers for all four departing flights were still in one processing line. As passengers saw their boarding times approach, many jumped the queue, but again, this also proved to be futile as there was an equally long snake-line of passengers in the area in front of the security screening equipment. It was at this point that all security measures broke down, with hundreds of passengers simply walking through the x-ray turrets, alarms screaming, and not nearly enough staff to search everybody, or even ask them to remove any metal objects.
Hand baggage which had to go through the scanner became a further exercise in futility as all items were simply rushed through the scanners without any checking. Three hand baggage scanners were in operation with a small, angry crowd at each waiting to go through the motions but without any actual monitoring of baggage content.
A young Namibia Police constable who tried in vain to restore some from of control, eventually just waved every passenger through while outside the side entrance, a small meeting of about ten policemen and women could be seen and heard, discussing the seriousness of the situation.
Meanwhile, the airconditioning in the security anteroom was dysfunctional sending temperatures well into the thirties. Pictures taken of the roof clearly show the wiring of the unit’s control panel, hanging out of the ceiling.
Inevitably the chaos at departures led to the delay of several flights. Passengers had to sit on the apron for more than an hour and a half past the scheduled departure time, waiting for stragglers still caught in the airport building chaos.
Captain Wiseman who piloted the flight to Johannesburg apologised profusely, at one point even making the statement that Air Namibia has taken up the issue with airport security but that what happened inside the airport building was beyond the airline’s control.