By Louis Ibah
Local airlines in Nigeria have reported a slip in passenger patronage in the first half of 2017 and linking the trend to the prevailing economic recession, which has had dire impacts on the disposable incomes of majority of air travellers.
“Traffic has been generally low across board in the first six months of this year and sometimes when you see the figures it’s like flying empty aircraft, which is not helpful in any way to the airlines,” said a top airline official.
“Airlines continue to battle with the challenge of low patronage. We thought it was worse between February and March when the Abuja airport was shut down for the repair of the runway, and although it peaked a little when Abuja was reopened, the figures haven’t been anything significant when compared to what we recorded in the first halves of 2014-16 and we hold the lingering recession in the economy responsible,” said the official, a spokesman of one of the local airlines who wouldn’t want to be named.
Daily Sun visited the two domestic terminals of the BPE in Lagos (MMA1 and MMA2) where some airlines’ sales and ticketing agents described the once bubbling airport as having been reduced to an early morning market as traffic drops drastically after the departure of flights between 6 and 10am.
“The Lagos-Abuja route remains the most busy route, but immediately the early morning rush is over between 6 and 10am, the airlines are like flying empty seats; we then do between 50-60 per cent of load factor or capacity,” said another airline official.
“So for an aircraft that has 108 seats, you can be sure of flying 50 – 60 passengers or even less on some routes. And when you factor in the cost of fuel, which remains very high, you realise that local airlines are heading for losses at the end of the year,” the official added.
Chairman of the Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON), Capt. Nogie Meggison, told Daily Sun that most investors were caught in a dilemma of either increasing fares and allowing the few who can afford it fly or maintaining existing fares and wooing more passengers.