Japa: Passengers Travelling Through Nigerian Airports Dwindle to 15M

Nigeria recorded a total of 15.89 million passengers who travelled through the nation’s airports in 2023, which is less than 16.17 million that passed through the airports in 2022.

Experts who blamed the shortfall on the ‘Japa’ syndrome, said in 2023, about 2.04 million Nigerians travelled out of the country between January and December, while in-bound passengers were 1.80 million during the same period.

The experts however said in 2022, international carriers airlifted 1.9 million passengers from the country as outbound travelers, with 27 airlines operating international service from Nigeria, while 13 airlines operated domestic service

Travel expert and organiser of Akwaaba African Travel Market, Ambassador Ikechi Uko, told THISDAY that expectedly outbound passenger throughput was higher because of the ‘Japa’ syndrome, as many Nigerians were determined to leave the country, no matter the cost of the ticket.

According to him, the total number of flights operated by international carriers rose to 12, 993 with 4, 534 delays and 65 cancelled flights.

“International operators also recorded 18 air returns, 47, 944 delayed or missing baggage and 43, 972 luggage found. There was progressive increase in outbound passengers on international destinations. In 2021, the number was 1,109,525, which increased by 700 to 1, 855,467 in 2022 and in 2023 it rose to 2, 047, 065.

Some of the foreign airlines recorded an increase in both in-bound and outbound passengers, but outbound passengers were consistently higher than in-bound passengers, except Uganda Airlines, which recorded 21314 in-bound passengers and 20371 outbound passengers from the total of 27 flights.

“African World Airlines (AWA) operated 1321 fights and airlifted 85, 850 passengers; Air Cote’ Ivoire operated 666 flights and 99, 151; Air France operated 494 flights and airlifted 213, 011 passengers and Air Peace operated 1, 358 international flights and airlifted 154, 285 passengers. Asky Airlines operated 1027 flights and airlifted 198,977 passengers and British Airways operated 698 flights and airlifted 309, 107 passengers, “he said

Delta Air Lines operated 349 flights and airlifted 142, 836 passengers; Egypt Air operated 630 flights, recording 170, 929 passengers; Ethiopian Airlines operated 1168 flights and recorded 495, 263 passengers and the Nigerian carrier, Ibom Air, which started operation to Accra, Ghana last year, operated 134 flights and airlifted 7,264 passengers. Kenya Airways operated 340 flights and airlifted 95, 187 passengers; KLM also operated 324 flights and airlifted 167, 626 passengers, while Lufthansa operated 742 fights and airlifted 262, o45 passengers.

“In the same vein, Qatar Airways operated 1338 flights during the same period and airlifted 537, 352 passengers and Middle East Airlines operated 108 flights, lifting about 36, 325 passengers. Other airlines include Royal Air Maroc, which operated 370 flights in 2023 and airlifted 115, 395 passengers; Rwand Air operated 439 flights and airlifted 107, 502 passengers; Saudi Air operated 162 flights and airlifted 91, 227 passengers; South Africa Airways operated 151 flights and 47, 999 passengers; TAAG Angola operated 133 flights and airlifted 18, 195 passengers, Turkish Airlines also operated 427 flights and carried 200, 087 passengers; United Airlines operated 143 flights and carried 57, 255, while Virgin Atlantic operated 348 flights and carried 184, 451 passengers, “he said

In the domestic market, he said Aero Contractors operated 3711 flights and airlifted 592, 501 passengers; “Arik Air operated 5, 265 flights and carried 966, 447 passengers; Azman Air operated 772 flights and airlifted 120, 480, while Dana Air operated 4033 flights and airlifted 874, 241 passengers; Overland Airways operated 2556 flights and carried 187, 717 passengers; while Air Peace operated 25,232 flights and airlifted 4, 899, 591 passengers and Max Air operated 5, 094 flights and carried 940, 768 passengers.

“Ibom Air on the other hand, operated 9832 flights  and airlifted 1, 116, 015 passengers; United Nigeria Airlines operated 6, 093 flights and airlifted 544, 614 passengers; Green Africa operated 5241 flights and carried 527, 870 passengers; Valuejet operated 3591 flights and carried 479, 328 passengers; Rano air operated 2452 flights and carried 219, 555 passengers and finally the new entrant that was bugged by controversy, NG Eagle, in its brief service operated 86 flights and carried 11, 485 passengers

“In 2023 domestic airlines delayed 39, 259, flights, which is 53 per cent of their total operations. The five airlines that led the delays include Dana Air, 76 per cent, Overland Airways, 73 per cent, Azman Air, 72 per cent, United Nigeria, 70 pe cent and NG Eagle, 70 per cent.”

The four airlines that recorded the least delays, he said, include; Ibom Air, 32 per cent, Valuejet 35 per cent, Green Africa, 39 pe cent and Aero Contractors, 46 per cent

“But in-bound was optional and that is why the number was not as high as outbound travellers. But this year, 2024, a lot of airlines are recording low passenger throughput. Traveling has become more optional. A lot of Nigerians who in the past spend their Christmas abroad chose to stay in Nigeria to celebrate the Yuletide and that is why the hotels did so well,” Uko said.

He also observed that there is growing number of Nigerians who travel to African destinations, “a new development that followed the fact that many countries in the continent have become intentional in marketing their destinations and also stringent visa conditions and high fares could be disincentive to travelling to old choice destinations in Europe, Middle East and some Asians countries

Nigerians have been doing African destinations in the last few years. Johannesburg used to be in the first seven choices for Nigerians but not anymore; Nairobi is in the best 10 destinations for Nigerians. But in the past it used to Heathrow, London, JFK, New York, Dubai, Saudi Arabia, Canada. Johannesburg used to be in the top seven, but now Rwanda, Kenya and in the top 10 African destinations by Nigerians,” he said.

Industry insiders also explained that the reason why more people travelled in 2022 than in 2023 was because of economic downturn, which is getting worse by the day, noting that the depreciating naira against the dollar is a disincentive to travelling overseas because fares cost much more in 2023 than in 2022. Also, domestic air travel has become very costly, as average airfares increased from N50,000 base fare in 2022 to N80,000 in 2023

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