UK travel ban: Airlines risk N965m daily

Airlines operating the Nigeria-London route could be losing about N965 million daily as a result of flight cancellations following the UK travel ban on Nigeria, BusinessDay’s findings have revealed.

Prior to the ban, London was one of the top destinations visited by Nigerians, but those who already made bookings are asking for a refund as airlines cancel flights following the ban.

BusinessDay’s analysis of passenger traffic and frequency of airlines shuttling between the two countries puts the cumulative revenue loss for airlines at N965 million based on an average of 3,860 passengers processed daily by airlines.

On Saturday, the UK government said Nigeria has been added to the countries on its red list due to the discovery of COVID-19 Omicron cases linked to Nigeria.

According to the new protocol, non-UK and non-Irish citizens who are travelling in from Nigeria will not be allowed entry into the UK.

BusinessDay’s checks show that British Airways which operates a daily return flight from London to Lagos and Abuja processes an average of 600 arriving passengers and 600 departing passengers on Lagos and Abuja routes.

Read Also: UK travel ban: Passengers stranded over flight cancellations

This implies that daily, the airline processes 1,200 passengers for both arriving and returning on London-Abuja and London-Lagos routes.

Also, Virgin Atlantic which operates a daily return flight from London to Lagos and Abuja processes an average of 700 arriving passengers and 700 departing passengers on Lagos and Abuja routes.

This implies that daily, Virgin Atlantic processes 1,400 passengers for both arriving and returning on London-Abuja and London-Lagos routes.

Ethiopian Airlines, Qatar Airways, KLM, Air France, Lufthansa, Air Rwanda and Kenya Airways which also operate daily in and out of Nigeria, carrying connecting passengers to London process an average of 600 arriving and departing passengers with at least 30 percent passengers connecting flights to London.

This implies that with each of the airlines processing 180 departing and arriving passengers daily to the UK, these seven airlines process 1,260 passengers to the UK.

Cumulatively, all international airlines operating the London-Nigeria route carry an average of 3,860 passengers on the two routes daily.

A one-way ticket from Lagos or Abuja to London and vice-versa costs an average of N250,000. This implies that the airlines may be losing over N965 million on the UK-London route daily.

Susan Akporiaye, president, National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies (NANTA) told BusinessDay that while airlines are rescheduling their flights, individuals have been cancelling their trips since the UK ban.

“The UK government did not stop airlines from going to the UK. Even the UK and Irish citizens who will travel will be quarantined at government facilities. What will happen is that airlines will stop going there because it won’t make economic sense, as 2,300 pounds is a lot of money for an average passenger to pay to quarantine,” Akporiaye said.

She added that the ban was affecting travel agents and airlines as individuals are requesting that tickets already issued be cancelled pending when the UK lifts the ban.

Abigail Andrew, a travel agent, told BusinessDay that thousands of Nigerians travel to London daily, as the UK remains a top destination for studies, business, tourism and visits to families and friends.

“The market for travel agents and airlines operating in Nigeria has always been the UK, US and Canada before COVID-19. But with COVID and UAE ban, we saw a lot of traffic to the UK route. The UK tickets kept selling on a daily basis even while Dubai was closed,” Andrew said.

Sindy Foster, principal managing partner, Avaero Capital Partners also told BusinessDay that British Airways rescheduled its flight and will still operate since UK and Irish nationals and residents can still travel to the UK.

Foster explained that a lot of Nigerians also hold British and Irish passports so they will be subject to the same rules.

She said the need to quarantine even for fully vaccinated passengers, in a government facility, is a big deterrent to travel to the UK. Both in terms of time, comfort and cost.

“Travelling to Nigeria whilst it is currently still possible from the UK, now attracts the risk of quarantine on the return. So it will likely reduce visits to Nigeria for all but essential travel. The existing protocol is due to be reviewed on 20th December,” Foster said.

Speaking on how the new variant has affected travel, she said Omicron has definitely affected the recovery of the travel and hospitality sectors.

“The new variant has reintroduced fear of the unknown into decision making. This came at the time people had started to gain the confidence to travel.

Flights scheduled to operate on Sunday and other days have since been cancelled and rescheduled following the UK travel ban.

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