Airlines operating to the south-eastern part of Nigeria are seeing declining passenger traffic as a result of the continuous sit-at-home order by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), BusinessDay’s findings show.
Airline operators have continued to count losses since the weekly sit-at-home order commenced, as they have had to cancel and reschedule flights into south-eastern states, especially Enugu and Owerri.
A domestic carrier on Tuesday posted its October 2021 operations showing it had 776 flights but cancelled 40 as a result of the sit-at-home order.
“Our October scorecard had 40 cancellations and the majority was as a result of the IPOB sit-at-home order which also affected our Owerri and Enugu flights on Mondays. Our sincere apologies to passengers for any inconveniences caused,” the airline stated.
A source at the airline who craved anonymity told BusinessDay that on Monday its load factor into Owerri was 30 passengers as against 130 to 150 passengers it carries on the route.
Emeka Chike, an Uber driver who operates into Owerri airport told BusinessDay that the sit-at-home order is affecting their business as they hardly get orders into or from the airport on Mondays.
Read Also: Sit-at-home order cripples activities in South-east
Chike said aside from Mondays, passenger traffic into Owerri airport on other days have equally reduced as a result of insecurity in the state.
“On Monday, my app was on but I did not get a single airport trip. Mondays are usually our peak days since those who travelled during weekends return. But sadly, since the sit-at-home order, we do not get orders from the airport on Mondays. Even on other days, we get very few orders from the airport, showing people no longer travel as they used to,” he explained.
George Uriesi, chief operating officer, Ibom Air told BusinessDay that four out of eight cancelled flights in October were Ibom Air’s evening return flights from Lagos to Enugu on Mondays.
“That flight is not on the schedule for November and until further notice. The economic impact is left to the imagination,” Uriesi said.
Speaking on the economic impact, he said, “From the airline perspective, you have significantly reduced passengers on the route on Mondays, which is in itself indicative of a significant reduction in economic activities on those days.
“For us with two return flights on Mondays which are usually pretty full, we’ve had to take one return flight off completely, while the one remaining is significantly impacted. But we believe that we owe it to our passengers who have already bought tickets to honour the contract, even though the loads are comparatively weak,” he disclosed.
Apart from Lagos and Abuja, Owerri and Enugu also rank as top states with the highest passenger traffic.
Between January and June 2019, apart from Lagos and Abuja, top states with the highest passengers’ traffic include Port-Harcourt (547,972); Kano (261,903); Owerri (210,948); Benin (153,560); Enugu (143,597); Akwa-Ibom (110,658) and Maiduguri (102,516).
Recall that some weeks ago, IPOB announced that there would be a sit-at-home in the south-east every Monday until its leader, Nnamdi Kanu, regains his freedom.
The Nigerian government had in June arrested and extradited Kanu from Kenya to continue his trial in the country.