• Tuesday, March 05, 2024
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BusinessDay

Lower passenger traffic seen for 2014 as fleets deplete

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Industry experts say by the time Nigeria’s domestic air travel figures for 2013 are compiled, they will likely drop significantly from 2012 figures. They suggest that the case might be similar or worse for 2014 if nothing is done to address the local aviation sectors problems.

The effect of shortage of airplanes on the fleets of Nigeria’s domestic airlines was vivid during this holiday season with hundreds of passengers often stranded at airports around the country.

Jude Okechukwu, a Lagos based businessman told BusinessDay “I could not get a return ticket to Asaba for my Christmas journey from Lagos even though I went to book three days ahead. I was told they could take me to Asaba but could not guarantee a seat back to Lagos before the new year. And now the prices have gone up from N35,000 to N75,000 for a return ticket”.

Another traveller who spoke to BusinessDay on phone in Kaduna said he was afraid to purchase a Kaduna-Lagos ticket, as he was told that he could not be assured of a seat back before yesterday December 31, 2013.

lagos-domestic-airportDung Pam, an industry analyst told BusinessDay “It is unfortunate, the problem has degenerated to this level, the airline operators themselves should have foreseen this and done the needful by either self consolidation before they started going down gradually from almost 15 airlines to three.”

“Apart from Aero and Arik Air, the others do not qualify to be called airlines, so we can only boast of two airlines now, that will salvage the situation,” Pam added.

Analyst say the sector needs at least 100 short to medium range aircraft to meet the current demand.

Industry experts estimate that about 250,000 Nigerians with cash in their pockets that could have traveled by air over the Christmas and New Year periods in 2013 choose other options due to bitter experience of flight delays, unreliable schedules and outright unavailability of aircraft to cover the routes. Many other could not find seats due to low capacity of domestic carriers.

Half of Nigeria’s domestic airlines went out of service in 2013 alone. In January 2013 the country had ten domestic airlines. As at December, only five were still flying.

Local airlines operating in the country as at January 2013 were  Arik Air, Dana, Aero, Medview, Chanchangi, IRS, Afrijet, FirstNation Airways, Overland Airways and Associated Aviation . Of these, only Arik, Aero, Medview,Fist Nation and Overland are still operational.

The 73 aircraft on the fleets of the airlines at the beginning of 2013 have consequently depleted to 46.

The problems of the industry, experts say, include lack of operational funds, unavailability of major maintenance facilities, high cost of aviation fuel, as well as comparatively heavy taxation by the country’s aviation agencies.

Experts say also that the local industry has difficulties raising funding, as a result of low investor confidence arising from poor safety records, among others.

Foreign aircraft leasing companies are also not willing to let out their aircraft, for the same reasons, it is said.

The situation is so bad now (during the New Year rush) that some airlines delay flights by up to five hours because of aircraft shortages, leaving the departure halls brimming with disappointed passengers, many of whom eventually resort to road transportation.

In 2012, the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) recorded 14.3 million passenger traffic, as against 14.9 million in 2011.

Our correspondents report long delays at airports across the country since three days to Christmas and up till yesterday.

“Some of the airlines do not need to operate so many routes because of their  low capacity. There is no route planning, hence the delays and cancellations. Because one airline operates to Port-Harcourt does not mean that all others have to follow suit”, an analyst said.

By: Sade Williams