Flights to Lagos Slump as Cairo, Nairobi Jump

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There will be 16 per cent fewer airline seats on domestic routes and nine per cent fewer on international routes to and from Lagos for the rest of 2017, an analysis of seat capacity for travel to the top 10 international airports in Africa, produced by ForwardKeys has revealed.

The slump is blamed on Arik Air, which is cutting 53 per cent of its seats for the rest of 2017 and some foreign airlines, which have reduced their flights to Nigeria and some that have stopped coming.

Jon Howell, Managing Director of AviaDev, Africa’s leading airline route development conference, said: “One of the major reasons for falling arrivals by air to Nigeria, is the fact that many airlines could not repatriate funds after the currency crisis in 2016.

“As a result, Iberia and United Airlines have ceased operations to Nigeria, whilst Emirates and the other foreign carriers have scaled back services. The Nigerian airlines have suffered too and so this void has been filled by the ever-opportunistic Ethiopian Airlines, who began serving their fifth Nigerian destination, Kaduna on August 1, 2017 and are now the largest carrier in the Nigerian market.”

Most of the other airports in Africa’s top 10 are seeing a healthy growth in capacity, which is more international than it is domestic. However, the most notable exception to this trend is Nairobi, which is seeing a 22 per cent boost in domestic capacity.
These findings are part of a wider report on travel to Africa, produced by ForwardKeys, which predicts future travel patterns by analysing 17 million booking transactions a day.

It shows double digit growth in flight arrivals for the first half of this year and little indication that the pace of growth will slow down soon. The wider report will make encouraging reading for airlines, governments and hoteliers planning to discuss possible new aviation routes at AviaDev in Kigali in October. AviaDev is organised by Bench Global Business Events.

The report reveals that in the first seven months of the year,  January 1 to 31st July 31, 2017, total international flight arrivals grew by 14 per cent over the same period in 2016.

Most significantly, growth was stronger for travel to and from the continent than within the continent. Arrivals from Europe, which make up 46 per cent of the market, were up 13.2 per cent. From the Americas, arrivals were up 17.6 per cent; from the Middle East, they were up 14.0 per cent and from Asia Pacific, they were up 18.4 per cent. By comparison, intra-African air travel, which makes up 26 per cent of the market, was up 12.6 per cent.

Looking at Africa’s top 10 destination countries, there have been stand-out performances from Tunisia and Egypt, which are recovering from notorious terrorist attacks two years ago, up 33.5 per cent and 24.8 per cent respectively.

In addition, Morocco and Tunisia received a huge boost in arrivals from China, up 450 per cent and 250 per cent respectively, after they relaxed visa restrictions. The one disappointment is Nigeria, which has seen a 0.8 per cent drop, in the wake of recession in 2016, caused by a collapse in the oil price to a 13-year low.

Looking forward to the end of the calendar year, bookings for flights to Africa are currently 16.8 per cent ahead of where they were on July 31, 2016. Bookings from Europe are currently 17.5 per cent ahead, from the Americas 26.6 per cent ahead, from Asia Pacific 11.5 per cent ahead, from the Middle East 8.2 per cent ahead and bookings for intra-African air travel are 11.0 per cent ahead.

A specific look at East Africa shows very similar trends in year to date performance and outlook to the end of the year. However, it has stronger forward bookings from Europe, 22.9 per cent ahead and less strong forward bookings from elsewhere; the Americas are 15.5 per cent ahead and intra-African air travel 7.6 per cent ahead. However, bookings from the Middle East and Asia Pacific are 6.0 per cent and 3.8 per cent behind respectively.

On an individual airport level, the most significant capacity increase in East Africa is at Kigali, with new routes to Brussels, London and Mumbai. Other notable new capacity includes Kilimanjaro to Dubai and Nairobi to Muscat and to Yemen.
Olivier Jager, CEO, ForwardKeys, said: “The growth in air travel to Africa is impressive. However, it is notable that consumer demand and airline investment is greater in travel to African countries from outside the continent than it is between African countries.”

Jon Howell, Aviation and Tourism Development Manager, Bench Events (www.BenchEvents.com), who is responsible for AviaDev, concluded: “As an international executive who has travelled around Africa for many years, I am longing for the day when it is easier to fly directly between African cities, as is possible on other continents. I am sure I’m not alone in that desire and I’m equally sure, it will happen eventually. That’s why I’m determined that the discussions that will take place at AviaDev will help bring that vision closer.”