Passenger traffic to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) via Cairo, Egypt took a considerable dip following the stoppage of flights between Nigeria and UAE occasioned by diplomatic face-off over rapid COVID-19 tests for travelers to the Arabian country.
As a result of the ban of flight services between both nations, the number of passengers to Dubai through Cairo is no longer existent even as many Nigerian traveling to UAE prefer to go via Cairo owing to the cheaper EgyptAir fares.
EgyptAir General Manager for Lagos, Mr. Muharram Rahman made the disclosure to AirInsight in his Lagos office. The United Arab Emirates extended the suspension of flights from Nigeria (Lagos and Abuja) from February 28 to March 20, 2021. He noted that before the ban, the airline recorded 150 passengers on wide-body aircraft and an average of 80 passengers on narrow-body aircraft.
He said: “We were affected by the UAE situation because on average, we have 150 passengers daily to Dubai on our wide-body aircraft, while we average around 70-80 passengers daily to Dubai on narrow aircraft. We were affected but we looked for alternative markets to substitute for Dubai, which is Muscat. A lot of Nigerians are traveling to Muscat, we have about 40-50 passengers traveling to Muscat daily. When we felt that we would lose Dubai markets, we leveraged our connections to Muscat. We just make our flights to Cairo 45 minutes earlier so we can connect to Muscat.”
The airline GM announced plans to increase the number of weekly flights from Lagos to 10, while also introducing daily flights from Abuja on June 1, 2021. He explained that the airline was looking to connect more passengers to Europe this year. He said: “We plan that on June 1st, we will operate ten flights per week from Lagos. From next month, we will increase our five weekly flights in Abuja to six and from the 1st of June it will be daily.”
The GM revealed that the load factor after the pandemic that ravaged the aviation industry dropped from 95 percent to an average of 70 percent. He said: “The load factor is not how it used to be. Before COVID-19, the load factor was 95 percent, but the load factor now averages from 55 percent to 70 percent. This is the average we are carrying now. We did not decrease our daily flights during the pandemic. This does not mean we were not affected. But we have an advantage, which is our location. It is easy for us to make Cairo airport a hub; we are connecting people from all over the world. We are close to everybody and everywhere.” He added: “Before the virus, we were operating four wide-body aircraft from Lagos but now I cannot operate that aircraft except once in a week.”
To avoid fake declarations of the COVID-19 test, the EgyptAir boss said the airline usually recommends three or four laboratories which would give the travelers authentic results.