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Breaking down Nigeria’s air travel growth in second quarter 2021

Still below pre-pandemic levels but air travel in Nigeria is rebounding in the second quarter of 2021 as data from the National Bureau of Statistics shows domestic passenger arrivals stood at 1,375,002 and departure at 1,381,696.

These figures on a year-on-year basis, show domestic arrivals in the second quarter of 2021 recorded a growth rate of 12.19 percent, while that of departures grew 124.58 percent when compared with the same period of 2020, which was reported at 1,225,557 and 615,243 respectively.

The NBS noted that lower figures in the second quarter of 2020 reflect the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic in restricting movements domestically. However, in the first quarter of 2021, domestic passenger’s arrival across all airports was reported as 1,274,350, while departure stood at 1,247,797, lower when compared with figures recorded in the same period of 2020 at 1,595,810 (arrival) and 1,531,688 (departure).

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On international passenger movement, the second quarter of 2021 recorded 220,171 passenger arrivals and 232,501 departures. Compared with the second quarter of 2020, which had 3,699 arrivals and 16,163 departures, the growth rate of foreign movement of passengers was 5,852.18 percent for arrivals and 1,338.48 percent for departures, noted by NBS as showing better performance of the sector.

It was also an improvement over first-quarter data when arrivals were 212,977 passengers and departure stood at 222,453, lower when compared to first quarter 2020 when arrival was reported at 419,849 and departure of 448,273.

The growth in the second quarter of 2021 is the first break from the negative outcomes since the COVID-19 impact hit the aviation industry.

For the 2020 full-year data, Abuja led arrivals with 1.9 million passengers and 1.59 million departings, followed by Lagos with 1.7 million arrivals and 1.4 million departures, then Port Harcourt with 299,409 arrivals and 302,438 departures, one of the airports with more departures than arrivals.

On international passenger movement, Lagos led with 479,282 arrivals and 518,478 departures, followed by Abuja with 197,481 arrivals and 179,229 departures and PHC with 12,737 arrivals and 17,020 departures.

The trend of arrivals and departures in the first two quarters of 2021 is so far similar to that of 2020, with Abuja still leading with domestic passenger traffic, while Lagos leads in international passenger traffic.

The growth is likely to continue despite predictions by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) that global passenger traffic will not return to pre-COVID-19 levels until 2024, as more operators position to begin domestic operations in Nigeria, and some foreign airlines either returning after a period of absence or expanding their flights’ frequency.

In March, BusinessDay reported that 25 investors were at different stages of acquiring Air Operating Certificates (AOC) for local flight operations from the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority, (NCAA).

On the foreign side, entrants include Sudan Airways and Sun Air Aviation, and two Nigerian carriers, Kabo Air and Skypower Express, to operate between the Sudanese city of Umm Badr and Kano in Nigeria. Also, five years after exiting Nigeria, United Airlines announced it would resume operations in the country.

Ethiopian Airlines, will also be resuming its flight to Enugu, via three weekly flights to be operated with a B787 Dreamliner. Delta Airlines has also returned its operations at Lagos’s MMIA to pre-pandemic levels with the resumption of its non-stop service between Lagos and New York-JFK four times a week. Qatar Airlines also recently doubled its flights to Lagos.

However, even as passenger activity continues to grow, BusinessDay had reported that the business of local in-flight catering is still hurting, as some airlines fail to resume these services on the local routes. Ticket prices have however either remained at pre-COVID levels or even increased.

For some airlines, that have resumed in-flight catering service, the portions of the snacks have been reduced to smaller packages, which are handed over to passengers as they disembark from the aircraft after the flight.

After the resumption of domestic flight operations, most airlines suspended in-flight catering services in a bid to contain the spread of COVID-19. Few months after flights resumed, the minister of aviation directed that all airlines resume in-flight catering. Airlines that have resumed catering services have reduced portions in a bid to cushion the effect of COVID-19 on their operations, while some other airlines have failed to resume the service, thereby shunning the order.

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