NIGERIA’S growing insecurity has begun to hit the domestic airline industry hard as several airlines have reported a loss in passenger volumes over the last four weeks with members of the public now wary of travelling.
Over recent months, insecurity has grown out of control across Nigeria with banditry, kidnapping, rape, armed robbery and murderous attacked by heavily-armed Fulani cattle herdsmen becoming rampant. Overwhelmed by the crisis, the security forces have been unable to contain the violence, with the federal government coming in for fierce criticism over its passivity.
According to domestic airlines, this has led to a reduction in passenger volumes, although higher airfares could be another factor. They noted, however, that even at the peak of high cost of tickets in May and April, passenger traffic was still high, so that alone could not be the reason behind the slump.
Apparently, some airlines that resumed flights to destinations in northern Nigeria had to suspend them, while airports in the southeast geo-political zone, which used to be highly lucrative routes have also recorded a reduction in passenger movement. Dana Air spokesman Kingsley Ezenwa, confirmed that there is slight reduction in the airline’s volumes with flights to Enugu, Owerri and Port Harcourt.
Because many travellers have shunned road transport due to kidnapping, it was expected that air transport should enjoy high patronage but this is not the case. One senior executive at one of the major domestic carriers, said that passenger traffic has dropped even as airlines are bringing in more airplanes from checks overseas, while new aircraft have continued to be delivered.
He added: “Passenger traffic has dropped as we used to do something like 90% load factor and some days we see 80% load factor in a day. Sometimes people buy tickets but they couldn’t travel for reasons I don’t know. Maybe they don’t want to travel for fear of one thing or the other, so, passenger traffic has dropped.
“Also, I believe that by the time all our places come in, including the brand new ones, we will be having many planes flying in this country. It is going to be a struggle for the few passengers and few airports.
Rejoice Ndudinachi, the manager at the Sam Mbakwe I
nternational Cargo Airport, said, however, that despite the prevailing insecurity in Imo State, there has not been any marked reduction in passenger traffic. She insisted that the traffic to the airport is normal.