By the end of December this year passenger movement on international routes would have risen to six million; the highest increase recorded in Nigeria’s air transport history.
By end of November the figure was already more than five million and it is estimated that over one million Nigerians would return from overseas during the Yuletide.
In 2011, the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) recorded over 12 million passenger movements and 234,235 aircraft movements and out of the over 12 million passengers only four million were international passengers.
So the figure has increased by 50 per cent but there are indications that passenger movement in the domestic routes would be less than what was obtained last year because there was a slump immediately after the crash of Dana Air flight 0992, which killed 163 people.
Passengers on domestic destinations deserted the airports and it was in September that there was discernible increase in passenger movement but by then fares had become exorbitant because few airlines were operating so those who could not afford the high fares chose alternative means to get to their destinations.
The busiest airport was the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, which from January to October last year recorded 3,257,738 passengers on domestic flights and 2,237, 991 international flight passengers within the same period, the number of passenger movement to international destinations has doubled this year.
Many in the industry attributed the increase to high mobility of Nigerians who travel out of the country to do business, attend conferences and others who travel to study and go to hospitals overseas.
Only few travel for leisure, but many Nigerians travel out of the country every day “for many other reasons but not for holidays. Few go for holidays,” a FAAN official told THISDAY.
Industry consultant and former chairman of the Federal Government’s Technical and Administrative Review Panel in the Aviation Industry, Group Captain John Obakpolor (rtd) said that domestic airline operation has become unprofitable now due to the fact that operational cost has gone up astronomically.
“Cost of jet fuel (Jet A1) which used to be N35.00 per litre is now N240.00. This has led to increase in fares which directly affect passengers’ inflow into the airport. In a country where minimum wage is N18, 000 it is difficult for many Nigerians to travel by and I can say that the number of Nigerians that travel by air is not more than 5.5 per cent of the nation’s population.”
But he described Nigeria as the bread basket of international travel in West Africa and beyond, remarking that many international carriers that operate into the country record profitable airlift from Nigeria, but ironically Nigerian airlines record successive failures.
“We did not protect our local operations because we granted so many entry points but Bilateral Air Service Agreement (BASA) allows one entry, so if you allow more entries it should be reciprocated,” Obakpolor said, adding that Nigeria is not benefiting from its huge passenger market.