The effects of COVID-19 on air travel and its attendant effects on the country and economy were made manifest as total tickets sold for the first quarter 1Q20 decreased by $151 million. This was a sharp reduction to $282.35 million sold in 2019 by foreign carriers that operated in and out of the country.
Data obtained from the National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies (NANTA), captioned, “BSP Nigeria-R&S Monthly Reports-Market Data April 2020”, a breakdown of the figure shows that $57.79 million worth of tickets were sold in January 2019 alone. Ticket sales figures for February of the same year stood at $51.52 million; March $80.55 million; April $92.59 million bringing the total to $286.36 million.
In contrast, the January 2020 figure was regarded as the best month for air travel and one that surpassed the expectations of travel agencies and other catalytic interests in the aviation and travel industry as the month saw high travel demands that amounted to $70.03 million. February 2020 saw ticket sales of $59.16 million; March figure stood at $23.26 million when the COVID-19 pandemic got to its peak and nations started closing their borders including restrictions that crippled travel. April 2020 saw a sharp decline in air travel as tickets sold amounted to $-1.36, a deficit for that month as the BSP recorded more refunds than new sales in April. As a result of that, the month of April became negative.
The total tickets sold for the first quarter of 2020 decreased to $151 million.
President, NANTA, Mrs. Susan Akporiaye at a press conference yesterday lamented that the COVID-19 brought the entire sector to a halt, stressing that January 2020 was one of the best months for aviation because of huge sales made by foreign carriers. She said the sales had never happened in recent times because the first quarter of every year is usually slow for business but expressed joy that the month was good. Ms. Akporiaye further stated that February of last year was also good till the second week in March when nations started taking measures to limit the spread of coronavirus by shutting borders.
According to her, “The whole of last year, especially from March was a difficult year as we have never had it so bad. Even the International Air Transport Association recently disclosed that 2020 was the worst year for aviation in many years. Surprisingly, January 2020 was the best month for aviation in Nigeria in recent years. January of every year is usually very difficult for travel. First-quarter is usually slow for business but January 2020 was a windfall followed by the month of February. After March 2020, the industry took a tumble for the worst because of COVID-19”.
She berated the attitude of United Arab Emirates (UAE) over the controversial Rapid Antigen Testing (RDT), saying it was not a full-proof for detection, adding that the PCR test was more comprehensive and far better than the Antigen test, which she said puts a lot of strain on travelers with additional costs. She said, “The PCR test is more in-depth while the Antigen test is not comprehensive. You can use the PCR to judge whether the passenger has COVID-19 or not. If you arrive at Dubai Airport, what they are supposed to do is to carry out a PCR test for you and if you test positive, you pay $2, 000 like what Canada is doing which is effective and has seriously the issue of fake COVID-19 test. UAE should have adopted such a method. You don’t need to board anybody without $2000.”
She lauded the Federal Government and Nigeria’s Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika for prevailing on Emirates Airlines to rescind its decision on Rapid Antigen Testing prior to departure of Emirates flights from Nigeria until such a time that the required infrastructure is made available by the Nigerian government.