Foreign airlines sold tickets worth $800 million (N288 billion) in the first half of 2018, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA).
The figure was a great improvement on 2017 when the airlines recorded a total of N503 billion from the Nigerian market, out of which about N259 billion was realized in the first half of the year under review.
The $800 million recorded by the foreign airlines was disclosed to THISDAY by the President of the National Association of Nigerian Travel Agents (NANTA), Mr. Bankole Bernard.
Bankole said from IATA records made available to NANTA, there was a marked improvement in the first half of 2018 compared to the same period last year because international carriers increased capacity during the period under review.
He said in 2016 when many foreign carriers could not repatriate their funds from ticket sales they cut back their capacity.
Bankole added that with the availability of dollars and the completion of the payment of $600 million blocked funds by the federal government in March this year, the airlines increased capacity on their Nigerian routes.
“Available records from IATA show that there is progress. There is increase in capacity this year because last year there were restrictions. Airlines could not repatriate their funds from ticket sales, so they reduced capacity. Emirates, which operated 21 frequencies a week, reduced their flight service to only seven frequencies a week. But the airline restored its 21 weekly operations this year: two daily from Lagos and one daily from Abuja to its hub in Dubai.
“Airlines like British Airways, Delta Air Lines and other international carriers reduced the size of their aircraft, as passenger movement was reduced due to the recession. But things have improved significantly,” Bernard said.
This was also confirmed by the Director General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Captain Muhtar Usman, who disclosed in an exclusive interview with THISDAY that some foreign airlines took commercial decisions and pulled out from Nigeria, while some reduced their capacity.
He added that as the economy improved, those foreign carriers have come back and some are even requesting for more frequencies.
“Some airlines took commercial decisions when they saw the situation did not favour their interest in terms of revenue earnings two years ago, but they have returned their operations to Nigeria. And that goes to testify that the economy has improved because you can now see that those that stopped operations have come back and some are even asking for more routes and more entry points into Nigeria and some are also asking for more frequencies. So it is a testimony that the economy is picking up,” Usman said.
In a recent data released by African Aviation Services Limited, foreign airlines operate over 300 frequencies weekly into and out of Nigeria. This shows an increase of 22 per cent from about 220 weekly frequencies operated by foreign airlines two years ago.
Ethiopian Airlines, which operates into five airports, including Lagos, Abuja, Kaduna, Kano and Enugu, has the highest entry points into Nigeria.
Ethiopian and its partner airline, ASKY operate 54 frequencies weekly into Nigeria, while British Airways and Virgin Atlantic operate 21 frequencies weekly into Nigeria.
The breakdown further shows that African World Airways (AWA) has 49 frequencies per week; Egypt Air with 16; Air France 15; Saudi Arabian Airways 13; Emirates 21; Lufthansa 11; Air Cote d’Ivoire10; Qatar 9 and South African Airways 7.
Other airlines that operate into Nigeria include Delta, Royal Air Maroc, Rwanda Air, Sudan Airways, Turkish Airways, which operates 7 frequencies.
Etihad has five frequencies; Fly Mid Africa has four frequencies; Middle East Airlines has four and AirItaly formerly Meridiana has three weekly flights into the country.
In 2017 foreign airlines earned a total of N503 billion from ticket sales.