• Tuesday, June 18, 2024
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Elections: Airport terminals empty as passengers suspend travel plans

Airlines cancel, delay flights as unions shut entrances over strike action

Passengers have in recent days had to suspend their travel plans over fear that there may be unrest following the displeasure by many Nigerians over the presidential election results.

Our correspondent who visited the Murtala Muhammed Airport Local and General Aviation Terminal on Wednesday observed that very few passengers were being processed for travel by one or two airlines, with most airline counters also empty.

The airport car parks were also empty as drivers lamented low patronage.

“This is a tough business period for us all. These times remind me of the COVID-19 period where we had no passenger to carry. Most of our clients are politicians but right now they are very busy with elections,” Seun Babalola, a taxi driver at the Lagos airport, told BusinessDay.

According to Babalola, some passengers have also suspended their travel plans because they suspected some disgruntled Nigerians might begin a riot following the announcement of the election results.

BusinessDay’s investigations show that airlines have had to reduce their flight schedules as they now operate less 50 percent flights.

Despite the reduction of flights, airlines now carry less than 40 percent load factor, making them operate at a loss.

Kingsley Ezenwa, spokesperson for Dana Air, told BusinessDay that there were very few passengers travelling since Sunday and this was affecting the airline business.

He said: “We have had to cushion the effects of the low patronage by reducing the number of flights we operate. We noticed on each flight, we had between 40 to 30 passengers, which is too low and not profitable for any airline.

Read also: Passengers lament experiences at Lagos airport

“People are scared to come out and Wednesday bookings are worse because that was when the winner of the presidential elections was announced. However, we are positive that in the next few days, normalcy would return and we will start having full flight operations.”

Obi Mbanuzuo, chief commercial officer of Green Africa, said all airlines felt the effect of the uncertainty surrounding the elections and the lack of passengers hurt airlines.

“We do have a schedule to operate and have been operating our flights mostly on time for the benefit of the few who have purchased tickets. I don’t think any airline is operating at up to 50 perceng load factor right now,” Mbanuzuo said.

Olumide Ohunayo, an aviation expert, said the elections crippled commercial activities across the country, adding that many businesses were doing skeletal operations because of the tension in the country.

“We need to improve security. Nigerians are scared of post-election riots. This is affecting the economy of the country. If you can’t go out and make money, it has a multiplier effect; it affects the economy of the country. Airlines cannot deploy their aircraft because there are no passengers to carry,” he said.

“Nobody is ready to go to Abuja now because those you are going there to see are not open.”

Philip Ike, a businessman, told BusinessDay that he had to cancel his travel plans to Abuja because of security concerns over the elections.

“I am not sure it is safe to travel at this time. The roads are even empty, showing people are worried that there may be protests across the country. It’s not a safe time to travel, so I had to cancel my travel plans,” Ike said.