Air travel in Nigeria seems to be gradually picking up, albeit slowly, but airline operators are not meeting travel demand as demand is far outstripping supply.
Armed conflicts in the Northern parts of Nigeria have equally fueled high demand for air travel. Amid the rise in passengers choice of air travel, virtually all the airlines lack the capacity to cater for teeming number of passengers turning up at airports because of the acute shortage of aircraft as many of the operators lack the necessary foreign exchange currency to bring back their airplanes that were ferried to maintenance facilities offshore.
While many people are turning up for flights that are extremely expensive, only a few can afford the astronomically high airfares which ironically has forced them to take to road travel which they dread. This situation has dampened morale and has led carriers to engage in flight delays and cancellations because they do not have aircraft to carry passengers booked on their ‘non-existent flights’ as aircraft rotations are done in a way that is extremely difficult both for operators and passengers.
The carriers, according to experts, have taken advantage of the situation to clandestinely raise fares by over 50 percent and in some cases by 75 percent as supply can no longer meet demand.
Managing Director of Skyway Aviation Handling Company Plc (SAHCO), Mr. Basil Agboarumi told AirInsight that most airlines’ aircraft are out of service and could not be brought back to service because of the paucity of foreign exchange, stressing that aircraft spare parts are not manufactured in Nigeria. He said, “This time around, people want to fly but the capacity is not there because many people are afraid to travel on the road as a result of insecurity on the roads. This is the time aviation should have taken full advantage but the number of aircraft on the ground cannot fully meet up the demands. So you can see the effects of foreign exchange coming up from N360 to what it is today”.
Agboarumi disclosed that the freight business has made great improvements, but is quick to point out that they were yet to get to the 2019 level before the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We are getting to 80 to 90 percent on cargo and passengers, both international and domestic; we are at about 60 percent or thereabout because some of the airlines have not returned back as we speak. On domestic, we can say all the airlines have resumed but not at that capacity that we were at December 2019”, he stated.
Former Managing Director of Aero Contractors, Capt. Ado Sanusi stated that his prediction at the end of last year was coming true in that the number of operating aircraft would shrink while passenger growth would increase. He further stated that the number of aircraft flying in the country is reducing while the number of passengers is increasing describing the purported rise in fares as the normal principle of the economics of demand and supply.