Airlines struggle to fill planes, face excess capacity

  • Carriers set to return leased aircraft
  • Lull in activities forced down fares




Poor passenger patronage has led to a sharp decrease in airfares. There is hardly any fully-loaded aircraft as with the airlines’ fate hangs in the balance. October, November, and December last year witnessed astronomical airfares –between 100 and 150 percent.

Now, fares to most cities, particularly Abuja and Port Harcourt, range between  N25, 000 and N31, 000, depending on the time of booking. This was in sharp contrast to between N35, 000 and N45, 000, while trips to places like Owerri, Enugu, and Asaba went up to between N45, 000 and N60, 000.

It costs more in some instances when all seats have been sold. The scenario had been predicted because the airline business is seasonal and driven by demand and supply.


Ibom Air’s fleet of aircraft

This necessitated many of the airlines to lease aircraft even at astronomical rates during Christmas festivities because of the heavy traffic.

Former Managing Director of Aero, Contractors, Capt. Ado Sanusi told Aviation Metric that there is a lull in the market, necessitating a reduction in airfares as many airlines try to load their airplanes. Sanusi said the carriers would need to be creative to ensure patronage.

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He said: “This is the time you will begin to see promotional fares, a strategy that will bring passengers to the airlines. “This is the time many of the leased aircraft would be returned to their owners because they were on a short lease. You know, many of the airlines leased few aircraft from many lessors to meet up with the demand of late last year occasioned by the Yuletide.”

In the last quarter of last year, Air Peace operated two AirbusA320sonadamplease from Latvian-based wet-lease specialist -SmartLynx.

Damp Lease is a wet-leased aircraft that includes a cockpit crew but not cabin attendants. The agreement was signed between SmartLynx Airlines and Air Peace on November 11, 2021, and will last until May 11, 2022.

Arik Air’s aircraft

Nigeria’s fastest-growing airline, Ibom Air, equally leased A220 airplanes to expand its operations as the carrier profited heavily from the Christmas traffic as its Bombardier airplanes were inadequate for its huge traffic.

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The Assets Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON)-owned Arik, in December 2021, leased a Boeing 737-700 aircraft from Eznis Airways to boost its operations.

The aircraft, which was deployed on December 2, 2021, enabled Arik Air to return to some routes which were suspended at the beginning of COVID-19.  The aircraft was leased to help the carrier boost its fleet in readiness for the Yuletide season.

Carriers such as Aero Contractors, United Airlines were also very busy in the market as they leased airplanes to boost their operations.

The Director-General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Capt. Musa Nuhu said it is up to the airlines to do its finances and economics and determine a reduction in airfares.

“I believe these airlines have done their proper analyses to reduce those airfares and there are many factors, they only can explain the reasons behind their slashing of airfares,” he said.

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“Maybe they have excess capacity and instead of leaving that excess capacity to go to waste, they rather make some money out of it, so there are many reasons. Airlines may slash their fares maybe they want to relate to a particular market segment after which they will adjust their fares accordingly. Airline finances and economics are interesting subjects and airlines have their reasons for doing that”

Aero Contractors B737 aircraft

According to him, it is the responsibility of the agency to ensure they comply with all standards and regulations.

He said the country is working with all agencies in preparation for the audit of the aviation sector by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), adding that the audit is all about the safety and oversight function of the NCAA.

Wole Shadare