From the time of the defunct Nigeria Airways Limited (NAL) the west coast has been a high-yielding market for Nigerian airlines.
But unfortunately, Nigerian airlines do not survive long to benefit hugely from the market. Their lack of consistency and short life span do not give them the opportunity to reap from this route.
There was a time the defunct Virgin Nigeria Airways depended on the market for the sustenance of its operation. At that time, the airline had about 41 per cent of the market.
Airlines don’t just make money from ticket sales in the west coast, they also make money from cargo movement. Because of low capacity, the fares are always unduly high, which is a discouraging factor for passengers.
In fact, the west coast market is driven by business. Traders from Nigeria, Ghana, Code d’Ivoire, Cameroon and other states in the west and central Africa trade among themselves. It is business that has lasted for centuries.
There was a time a large chunk of wild meat consumed in Nigeria were coming from Cameroon, wild boars, buffaloes etc; clothing was coming from Senegal and Ghana and others.
During Air Peace inaugural flight to Monrovia, the Chairman/Chief Executive Officer of the airline Mr. Allen Onyema said the Nigerian carrier was championing seamless air connectivity in Africa to ensure the economic growth of the continent and ease the travel challenges of the people.
“We began our intervention in the air travel difficulties of the West Coast of Africa with the inauguration of Lagos-Accra service in February 2017. A year later in 2018, we deepened our presence in the region with the addition of Freetown, Banjul and Dakar to our route network.
“The addition of Monrovia to our route network is a fitting response to the yearnings of the flying public for the Air Peace experience. The launch of Monrovia brings our regional destinations to five. We are connecting Monrovia from Abuja and Lagos through Accra. Shortly, we hope to add more destinations to our regional route map,” he added.
Also last Sunday Overland Airways marked its inaugural flight services from Lagos to Cotonou, Republic of Benin and Lome, Togo Republic.
The Managing Director of Overland Airways, Captain Edward Boyo said history was made with flight operations into Lome.
“We have come to promote trade. Trade happens when people move from one point to the other. Every evening, Overland will leave Lome at 8.30pm. Passengers will go to Lagos and do business for the whole day in Lagos and when they are ready to come back, they go to the airport by 6.30pm to join Overland.
“It is possible for prosperity and economic development to come to our lands. We have come to Lome and Togo to stay. We are here to provide service,” he added.
Analysing the market, travel expert, Ikechi Uko said Overland and Air Peace may last long in the West Coast market because they have chosen the right aircraft type. Overland uses ATR 42/72 while in addition to Boeing B737; Air Peace would be deploying its 50-seater Embraer 145 on the routes.
What is fruitful about the West Coast is that it yields revenue in foreign exchange and its flight duration ranges from about three hours to 35 minutes.
“The load factor is smaller and more profitable, so choosing the right equipment has been the problem for Nigerian airlines but Air Peace and Overland have got it right, this time.
“This is Overland’s first foray abroad. It has taken advantage of a low hanging fruit so with its aircraft type; it needs about 20 passengers to survive in the routes. Overland has the right equipment, but it needs to connect to other airlines to take its passengers farther in the West Coast than to operate point to point,” Uko, the organiser of Akwaaba African Travel Market said.
The Managing Director of the Nigerian Airspace Managing Agency (NAMA), who had operated the West Coast routes for several years as a pilot, described it as high yielding market.
Well, the west coast is high yield market, so it is up to you to take advantage of it. Some of the payments are made in foreign exchange, so it makes sense.
By share population alone and the fact that you must look at the market, who are the people that travel more? Nigerians travel more. Number one, we have the population. Number two, by our nature we travel; by our nature we are very aggressive as traders, it is not something that anybody invented, it is a natural thing. We are highly mobile, we are good traders. So, you find it that throughout the West African coast. Tell me where Nigerians are not in such numbers as dominating some of the economic activities?” he said.