Nigeria, African Airlines Show Signs Of Recovery

African airlines seem to be returning to profitability. The last three years had been excruciating for airlines and the travel industry. It was a crisis that ‘crumbled’ literally the entire global travel industry. But since the relaxation of COVID-19 rules, airlines and the travel trade operators have dusted themselves up by posting fantastic financial results.

Although the carriers are not yet back to their pre-COVID- 19 state, they have shown remarkable signs to bounce back. Nigerian carriers are not doing too badly despite a very poor economy. With the high airfare introduced in the wake of the astronomical cost of Jet A1 and the harsh economic situation, they have been able to remain afloat, although they are not out of the woods yet.

With the increase in the number of airlines in operations and about four others that are on the verge of securing their all-important Air Operators Certificate (AOC), Nigeria is seeing a boom in domestic airline operations despite the ravaging impact of COVID-19 on aviation and travels.

Amid the gloom of the pandemic, Nigeria’s domestic carriers are said to be on their way to recovery with more interconnectivity by the carriers linking remote airports to others; a new strategy to bring air travel to every part of the country.

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While airports are opening up in many places like Anambra and Bayelsa, among others, the desire to connect these aerodromes is high with short distances like Lagos to Ibadan, Ibadan to Ilorin, Ibadan to Akure, Abuja to Kaduna, Asaba to Port-Harcourt among others that are not helped by the high-level kidnapping on the roads.

Meanwhile, the continent’s carriers had a 134.9 percent rise in May RPKs versus a year ago. May 2022 capacity was up 78.5 percent and load factor climbed 16.4 percentage points to 68.4 percent the lowest among regions.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA), at the weekend, announced passenger data for May 2022, showing that the recovery in air travel accelerated, heading into the busy Northern Hemisphere summer travel season. Nigerian airlines and other African airlines had a 134.9 percent rise in May RPKs versus a year ago.

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May 2022 capacity was up 78.5 percent and load factor climbed 16.4 percentage points to 68.4 percent the lowest among regions. The industry has returned to year-on-year traffic comparisons, instead of comparisons with the 2019 period, unless otherwise noted.

Owing to the low traffic base in 2021, some markets will show very high year-on-year growth rates, even if the size of these markets is still significantly smaller than they were in 2019. Total traffic in May 2022 (measured in revenue passenger kilometers or RPKs) was up 83.1 percent compared to May 2021, largely driven by the strong recovery in international traffic.

Global traffic is now at 68.7 percent of pre-crisis levels. Domestic traffic for May 2022 was up 0.2 percent compared to the year-ago period. Significant improvements in many markets were masked by a 73.2 percent year-on-year decline in the Chinese domestic market due to COVID- 19-related restrictions. May 2022 domestic traffic was 76.7 percent of May 2019.

International traffic rose 325.8 percent versus May 2021. The easing of travel restrictions in most parts of Asia is accelerating the recovery of international travel. May 2022 international RPKs reached 64.1 percent of May 2019 levels.

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“The travel recovery continues to gather momentum. People need to travel. And when governments remove  COVID-19 restrictions, they do. Many major international route areas – including within Europe and the Middle East- North America routes – are already exceeding pre-COVID-19 levels. “Completely removing all COVID-19 restrictions is the way forward, with Australia being the latest to do so this week.


Crowded Lagos airport

The major exception to the optimism of this rebound in travel is China, which saw a dramatic 73.2 percent fall in domestic travel compared to the previous year.

Its continuing zero-COVID policy is out-of-step with the rest of the world and it shows in the dramatically slower recovery of China-related travel,” said Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director-General.

Wole Shadare