About 15 new private and commercial airlines have applied for operating permits as the demand for air travel steadily rises in the country.The spokesman of the apex regulatory body, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Sam Adurogboye, said the applications were being considered and as many airlines that met the laid down conditions would be granted permits to operate in Nigeria.
According to Adurogboye, the development is an indication of growth and progress in the sector.The Guardian’s investigation revealed increase in demand for air travel as airlines are either increasing frequencies or deploying bigger aircraft on routes they had considered closing months back.
While frequent fliers are enjoying the comfort of state-of-the-art airplanes, new destinations are also opening on both local and international routes nationwide. These indicators apparently align with the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS)’s year-on-year growth projection for air travel sector, recently put at 12.08 per cent.
And if the growth rate is anything to go by, the implication is that there would be more earnings for the airlines and other aviation-rated services, with attendant revenue for various regulatory agencies and government coffers. Also, wider frequencies and alternatives will lead to competition and the likelihood of cheaper fares for the travelling public. The air travel business can then contribute more to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) than the paltry 0.4 per cent recorded in 2016 and 2017 estimates.
The Guardian had lately observed a chain of positive activities in air travel, suggesting improved fortune for operating airlines and the sector at large. For instance, Emirates airlines that scaled down its operations to 25 per cent during the recession has just doubled its daily flights from Lagos and restored a flight daily from Abuja.
To cope with the boom, AirFrance is raising capacity on the Nigerian routes with Boeing 777 and Airbus 340 aircraft types. The wide-body state-of-the-art airplanes, besides the comfort, comes with a 10 per cent additional seat capacity en route Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt to Paris, France and Amsterdam in Holland, where the airline and its partner, KLM, operate.
The General Manager of Airfrance/KLM operations in Nigeria and Ghana, Michel Colleau, said the decision was business-driven as it would accommodate increase in passenger traffic on the Nigerian routes.Similarly, the Rwandan national carrier, RwandAir, is set to open Abuja operations, to add to its Lagos services. The new route is part of its strategic network plan to connect its hub in Kigali to Abuja, Bamako in Mali, Conakry in Guinea and Cape Town in South Africa.
On local front, Air Peace is blazing the trail in an unusual manner. Besides increasing its fleet from nine to 24 within 12 months, it has just taken the delivery of the first of three Boeing 777 aircraft for international operations. And to consolidate its local market, the airline has just opened the Kano, Yola routes that were formerly described as “unviable routes”, followed by Freetown, Banjul and Dakar services from Lagos.
Max Air, previously known for non-scheduled operations, will in the next few days commence passengers’ scheduled services. The travel agencies, who are in the downstream sector of the industry and the middle men between airlines and passengers, have also confirmed a steady improvement in passenger demand, especially on the foreign travels.