The low demand for air travel on the Nigerian route and the near apathy for air travel is beginning to lead to a sharp cut in capacity by foreign carrier occasioned by low season and the long time it took the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to release $265 million out of the $464 million airlines’ funds trapped in Nigeria.
The CBN had last week after a month of intense pressure by the affected airlines and critical stakeholders released a little over half of what is owed the airlines as the carriers had taken the ‘painful decisions’ to either cut flight services to Nigeria or in the case of Emirates Airlines stop flight operations to Nigeria starting from tomorrow, Sept 1, 2022.
It is however not certain that Emirates will stop flight operations to the country tomorrow after the release of the funds by the country’s apex Bank. The carrier from its inventory would continue flight services beyond Sept 2022.
Aside from Emirates, there are indications that South African Airways (SAA) could also cut capacity on the Lagos-Johannesburg route because of low demand and as a way to mitigate further seizure of their funds.
South African Airways officials are yet to confirm the cut in their operations at the time of filing the story.
An airline source who pleaded anonymity told our correspondent that the planned stoppage of flights by Emirates and others could have equally come as a result of the low demand on many routes now occasioned by the fact that Winter is creeping in, a period that is described as ‘low season’ in travel and aviation parlance.
During the Winter season (Low season), very few people take to air travel as airlines all over the world cut capacity by either closing some routes or reducing frequencies to the barest minimum.
During the Summer or Christmas period in what is generally known as (High season) when there is a huge volume of air travel, many carriers request extra frequencies (extra flights) from nations they operate to grant more capacity or flight rights to cope with the volume. Immediately after that is over, the carriers may decide to pull out of the multiple frequencies and revert to their normal flight schedules.
To this end, one of the world’s biggest airlines, Delta Airlines which still maintains its original Lagos-Atlanta route has decided to stop suspending its flights between New York JFK airport and Lagos effective October 4, 2022.
The airline disclosed this via a statement yesterday, stating that the route suspension was to fit into “the current demand environment.”
The statement read, “Delta is suspending its nonstop service between New York-JFK and Lagos to fit the current demand environment.
“The airline continues to operate service between Lagos and Atlanta and offers onward connections to New York and other cities across the United States.
“Customers impacted by our suspended New York-JFK to Lagos service will be re-accommodated on Delta-operated flights or services operated by our joint venture partners. Delta remains committed to the Nigeria market.”
President, National Association of Nigerian Travel Agencies (NANTA), Mrs. Susan Akporiaye said Delta stopping of the Lagos-New York flight is not a result of trapped funds, adding that the carrier’s New York flight had never been a fixed route but one that comes in and out of seasons.
She said, “They brought the route during high season and they are taking back the route during low season. If you notice, it takes effect from October 4. By then the high season would have been over and they will bring it back in December because December is another high season. From the beginning, the New York-Los route has never been a fixed route. They usually do this all the time. They bring the routes in high seasons and take it back in low season because of demand”.
She also disclosed that the restrictions the airlines put in place are the things airlines do when they have a situation of trapped funds which does not affect routes in any way, adding that SAA is also reducing their frequencies because of visas, but argued that SAA does not only fly to South Africa.
“For Air Peace, it is possible that the Visa issue will affect Air Peace because its final destination is Johannesburg, South Africa. If people are not getting visas to go to South Africa, Air Peace will not have people to carry. Don’t forget SAA goes beyond South Africa. For them, it is not going to be more of a visa problem. What will happen is that they won’t be able to carry many people to SA as a destination, but they have other destinations that they are servicing like Washington destination and some other African countries destinations that SAA is servicing”.
Chairman Flyboku, Mr. Abiola Lawal said the delay in helping airlines to repatriate their funds caused a lot of issues that made airlines cut frequencies occasioned by pressure faced in their home countries on why money was not coming in a market they had invested.
“What now happened was that over time, the airlines began to get creative by removing the lowest cost Naira fare basis in the Nigerian market inventory for higher cost one to somehow compensate for the erosion in the value of Naira relative to the dollars”.
“The move essentially means that prices have gone up astronomically sometimes as much as 300 percent or more in Naira terms for the Nigerian travelers. The effect of this is that demand will reduce and some airlines not all immediately then see reduced demand and lower load factor”, Lawal added.
Former NANTA President, Bankole Bernard said reneging in helping airlines to repatriate their ticket proceeds some of the things we are experiencing would not have happened.
He however said urged the media not to create panic, stressing that the reduction of frequencies by airlines happens all the time especially when the industry is approaching low season.
“Emirates reducing capacity is as a result of that. They have looked at the number or what is called forward booking. They are cutting capacity because summer is over”,
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