By Chinedu Eze
Aviation industry stakeholders have expressed optimism that the resumption of domestic flight operations will kick-start nation’s economy.
According them, this is because entrepreneurs and business leaders move by the fastest means possible and air travel is the only provider of such mode of travelling in Nigeria.
The Director of Flight Operations of Air Peace, Captain Victor Egonu, told THISDAY that the safest means of travelling in Nigeria is by air, which remains the most secure in the country, noting that the economy would only begin to breathe when decision makers and movers and shakers of the society begin to travel.
The stakeholders also expressed hope that international travel would soon be approved by government saying because Nigeria is an import-oriented country, the economy may not be fully galvanised without international travel. They also noted that international travel feed domestic flights without which local air service would be under served.
The Chairman, Airline and Passenger Joint Committee (APJC) and immediate past President of the National Association of Nigerian Travel Agencies (NANTA), Bankole Bernard, told THISDAY that eventually there would be large turnout of travellers at the airports, but noted that the first few days would not record heavy traffic.
“There will be high demand of air travel. I already have people making request for tickets for Lagos-Abuja. They want to fly; even I myself want to travel. You see, for business to happen there must be movements and movement cannot be done by road.
“Movement and time consciousness is one of the critical things that business people pay attention to. What is the easiest thing for me to get to Abuja to do the business I want to do and come back?
“All the hotels in Abuja are suffering because nobody is coming there to sleep. So by the time flights resume, every other business will pick up. So it has a multiplier effect on other industries.
“So we are looking forward to see flight resume. And to let you know a lot of people are waiting for that to happen.”
Bernard said the load factor might start from a projected 25 per cent to 35 per cent passenger load factor, picking up with time.
“Remember that in the aviation industry the airline plans ahead because these flights are scheduled. Now we want to say that yes, I don’t want to go ahead and plan for a month and it will take place.
“What if tomorrow the government says you cannot fly again, it means all the provisions made will have been disrupted. So we too want to see it kick off, by tomorrow you will see a low turnout, as it should be which is expected. “But if we know that after tomorrow the first flight has taken off then I know that by Thursday I can get another, then everybody start to plan.
“I see at the initial stage of a 25 per cent passenger load that will kick off by next week I see that figure doubled. Because people and now confident that truly our airspace has been opened.
“And I am soliciting with the government that international flight should resume almost immediately after we must have tested the domestic flight to see how well we have been able to manage it.
“Maybe the government can open international flight in two weeks’ time. Why are we doing this? Remember Nigeria is an import dependent country, because of poor electricity level of manufacturing is still very low.
“And there is absolutely nothing wrong in us depending on other countries to produce those things for us until we are able to become self-reliant in that regard. But till then, allow our people to travel out to be able to bring in their goods.
“So international flight needs to resume in earnest so that people are able to move around as soon as possible. We really desire international flight to resume on or before the end of the month to compliment the domestic carriers. This is because either you like it or not, the international flight feed the domestic as well.
“The foreigners that have gone out will feel comfortable to come back. Like I said to you, Nigeria is a gold mine and everybody will love to be where you know that the business is good.
“The environment might not be so fantastic but the business there is good. So that is what we are looking forward to,” Bernard who is also the Group Managing Director of Finchglow Group said.