As Airlines Jostle for Nigeria’s Growing International Passenger Traffic

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Chinedu Eze

The Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika confirmed on Tuesday during the World Government Summit, Dubai 2020 that many international carriers have been jostling to take a slice of the Nigerian international air travel market, which a former Ethiopian country manager in Nigeria described as the most contested market in Africa.

Also at Dubai 2020, the President of Emirates Airlines, Tim Clark acknowledged that Nigerians are seeking to travel all over the world and described Nigeria as powerhouse of Africa.

“We are over interested in flying there because it is a rich nation in terms of demand for services,” Clark said.

Industry experts confirm that Nigeria has the highest indigenous international passenger traffic in the world and average Nigerian likes to travel to international destination for business, for leisure or just for adventure.

This explains why Royal Air MaroC is pushing to have larger market share in Nigeria and it has put everything in place to actualise that objective.

Royal Air Maroc, more commonly known as RAM, is the Moroccan national carrier, as well as the country’s largest airline. RAM is wholly owned by the Moroccan government, and has its headquarters on the grounds of Casablanca-Anfa Airport. It joined the Oneworld alliance in 2020 and has remained one of the most successful African carriers. 

The airline disclosed in a press conference in Lagos that it plans to expand operations in Nigeria, as the airline is the first African airline to join the Oneworld Alliance. 

The airline which operates daily scheduled flights to Nigeria from its base in Casablanca to the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos suspended its operations to the Federal Capital Territory (F.C.T) in Abuja due to low passenger traffic, but indicated that it would return to that destination to operate to two Nigerian cities.

Speaking during the conference to mark the celebration of the alliance between Air Maroc and Oneworld in Lagos, The Director, Finance, Royal Air Maroc, Karim Benchekroun said that although Air Maroc has a small market share in Nigeria, the demand is expected to increase with the new membership to OneWorld.

Oneworld is an airline alliance founded on 1 February 1999. The alliance’s stated objective is to be the first choice airline alliance for the world’s frequent international travellers. Members of the alliance include Japan Airlines, British Airways, American Airlines, Qantas of Australia, Malaysia Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Qatar Airways and others. Royal Air Maroc is the first member from Africa.

The airline said it is poised to increase its market share in Nigeria and this would be enhanced by the OneWorld Alliance, as it hopes to bring in travellers from the Americas, Europe and other destinations to Nigeria at the wings of the alliance.

“Nigeria is a very important market to us. Although the market is not very strong for Air Maroc now, it will increase very soon. We have discovered that people who travel with the airline basically travel for business, tourism and religious visits but the demand is small. We will keep pushing to ensure we increase demand in Nigeria because the population is large,” Benchekroun said.

He said the airline would work with the relevant authorities to ensure visa processes for passengers are easy and seamless.

“Oneworld Alliance brings together world-class airlines to deliver a superior, seamless travel experience and special privileges for frequent flyers, he added.

He explained that the entry of Royal Air Maroc into the alliance followeda rigorous implementation programme to integrate Royal Air Maroc into the alliance.

Benchekroun said it took the airline a lot of effort and time to be a part of the big alliance, adding that this is a great way to bounce back after border closures as a result of COVID-19.

He said he was optimistic that the membership would also help the airline grow passenger demands across the world, especially in Nigeria.

“It took us a lot of efforts to be a part of this big alliance. We have only three African airlines as parts of the world’s alliances and Royal Air Maroc is the first airline to join the Oneworld alliance from Africa. We have added 30 more destinations to the Oneworld Alliance through our membership.

“The best alliance to join for us is Oneworld. Oneworld did not have any member in Africa until now and since we joined, the economic benefits to the airline and the travelling public have increased. Our goal was and it is still to compete with other airlines. Our aim is to give more benefits to our passengers and airline,” he said.

He disclosed that the airline chose this particular alliance because apart from being the first African member on the alliance, the alliance has quality members.

Chief Executive Officer, Oneworld Alliance, Robert Gurney, said the membership of Royal Air Maroc to the alliance was very strategic.

He said the membership of the airline had further swelled its destinations by 30 on the continent, promising that this would also be beneficial to the Nigerian travellers and market.