Foreign Airlines See Nigeria, Africa As Growth Potential

  • More carriers eye continent, Delta awaits FG’s nod
  • S’ Arabia waives quarantine requirement

There are indications that many international airlines have come to the reality that Africa is a growth area for the survival of airlines as a way of navigating the COVID-19 crisis disruptions that have affected many airlines across the world.

To this end, many airlines across Europe and the United States are working on modalities to begin services to Nigeria, Accra  and other parts of the continent.

The planned resumption of flight operations by United Airlines from Washington DC to Lagos before the end of the year subject to the Federal Government’s  approval could provide choices for many travelers to the United States.

 

United Airlines’ aircraft

The airline was operating Lagos to Houston prior to the 2016 economic depression amid foreign airlines’ N120 billion stuck in Nigeria. United’s exit left Delta as the only U.S. carrier that continued to offer non-stop services between Atlanta, Lagos and Abuja.

The airline at the weekend reconnected Washington DC with Accra, Ghana, a move that was hailed by many as strategic for both nations.

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Aviation consultant and travel expert, Mr. Femi Adefope, told Aviation Metric that the coming of United would not distort the travel market, stressing that competition would bring down fares and give travel choices to travelers on the lucrative US-Africa’s aviation market.

His words: “They have started from Accra, Ghana and they are planning to operate to Nigeria before the end of the year. Their coming won’t distort the market. Rather, it would stimulate the market. Airlines in many parts of the world even before COVID- 19 saw Africa as new frontier for airlines.”

The United States and Nigeria on August 26, 2000 signed an “Open Skies Agreement” that will expand and enhance the overall aviation partnership between the two countries.

The agreement was signed by former U.S. Secretary of Transportation Rodney Slater and former Nigerian Transport Minister Kema Chikwe.

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The ‘Open Skies’ agreement permits unrestricted international air service by airlines of the two countries between any city in one country with any city in the other.

The agreement maximises potential competition, encourages price flexibility for passengers and shippers, and encourages improved and expanded service to existing and new markets.

Nigeria has been reputed as one of the countries globally controlling high number of air passenger traffic. In 2018, approximately 5.44 million passengers traveled on international flights in Nigeria.

In that same year, Murtala Muhammed International Airport (LOS) was the busiest airport for domestic passenger traffic in Nigeria, with 4.25 million passengers traveling.

Since the ‘Open Skies’ agreement was signed, only Arik Air reciprocated the pact by operating to New York for a short period before it decided to stop the service amid poor schedule integrity, internal problems and other issues that compelled them to quit the lucrative route.

Air Peace on the other hand had signified its intention to begin the US route more than two years after the announcement.

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The carrier seems to be battling many issues currently that may have slowed its plans to commence flight services to Houston, London, Guangzhou and Mumbai to join the airline’s international route network of Johannesburg, South Africa and Sharjah, United Arab Emirates which it has temporarily suspended.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia has announced that foreign visitors including Nigerians arriving by air from most countries will no longer need to quarantine if they have been vaccinated against COVID-19.

However, visitors from 20 other countries – including the United States, India, Britain, Germany, France and the United Arab Emirates – remain banned from entering the kingdom, however, under measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Wole Shadare