THISDAY investigations have revealed that foreign airlines lose about $200 million monthly to the present economic crunch in Nigeria, which has forced potential travellers to defer their trips due to lack of disposable income.
Also, there is reduction in passenger traffic as cash squeeze has impacted negatively on the purchasing power of the citizens, forcing million to spend money on essential items and limiting the money in circulation.
Nigeria was reputed to be one of the highest yielding market in the world, coming second to the Middle East as there is obsessive preference for premium class seats at outrageous fares peculiarly arranged for Nigerian travellers.
THISDAY learnt that although British Airways have to seven flights from London to New York daily, its two flights from London to Lagos and Abuja daily yields more dividends for the airline than the London-New York flights.
So besides South Africa, Nigeria is the biggest aviation market in the region and it is described as the largest indigenous air travel market in Africa, where the citizens themselves travel and have the resources and willingness to pay for premium and other classes.
However, the economic downturn has forced foreign airlines to lose 45 per cent of their market in Nigeria especially with the increase in fares by the international carriers as strategy to combat the losses incurred revenues earned from ticket sales by foreign carriers.
The market has become very tight, forcing airlines that cannot cope to stop their operations as they continue to record lower load factor as explained by Iberia and United Airlines which have left the Nigerian air travel market.
THISDAY also learnt that even the major airlines that are still operating are finding it difficult to cope with the shrinking market and some of them are considering temporary suspension of their flights, but some airlines that have provided service on the Nigerian route and even emerging ones that have found their niche in the market are not considering to quit the country.
British Airways last week debunked the report that it was planning to quit the Nigerian market, saying that it has been operating in Nigeria for over seven decades and would continue to operate in Nigeria, no matter the challenges.
However, THISDAY learnt that BA has reduced the size of its operating aircraft from Boeing B747 to B777 on its London-Lagos route; Air France, a major operator in Nigeria has also reduced its aircraft from Airbus A340 to A330.
“But it is very likely that these airlines would return the bigger aircraft in the Summer but this cannot be like last year summer because there is general erosion of purchasing power and instead of Europe, people now go to African countries, which is cheaper,” a source added.