British Airways has predicted boom in Nigeria’s aviation industry saying the sector would experience a boom in air travel between this year and next, going by marginal improvement in air travel.
According to Country Commercial Manager for British Airways, Mr. Kola Olayinka, Nigeria would also experience increase in passengers going by the huge travel needs, occasioned by situation, which has led to improvement in the economy.
He said “Let’s be very honest, as a Nigerian looking at this economy, almost everybody is rationalising. Let’s take it from the family unit. Sometimes I say to the kids ‘you are not going for summer this time; this is what I can afford.’
“Everybody is doing that. The small businesses need to travel. Business is still transacted, not on the phone, but by shaking hands and no matter how much you use technology, you cannot do without shaking hands. You have to be there to sign the deals. Children who are in school must come home. The school will close. They can’t sleep on the street. It is an indication that things are getting better.”
Experts had predicted that Nigeria’s traffic figure could rise to 17 million in 2017 from 15.2 million last year despite tough economic reality that affected businesses in the country.
And despite the economic downturn, which has eroded the purchasing power of Nigerians, air travel still recorded ticket sales of N330,548,324,796.84 from January to October 2016, a little less than N385,909,897,028. 80 sold between January and December 2015.
The BA chief explained that airlines’ trapped funds in Nigeria and some other countries equally did an incalculable damage to air travel in the country, just as it affected many other frequent travellers.
During the period, frequent travellers on premium classes downgraded to economy and other classes of travel.
As a result of foreign exchange restrictions imposed by the Federal Government, foreign carriers had $600 million in ticket sales trapped in the country.
Speaking on the challenges faced by airlines in the last two years, Olayinka pointed to the difficulty in sourcing foreign exchange with remission of money becoming difficult.
He said: “We, however, now seem to be turning the corners. We are not fully there yet. I am sure you know all the figures. I don’t want to brandish the figures again. It was scary because you start talking of $600 million. Things are getting better and we realise we need to bring back the B747 on the Lagos route.”
Olayinka also disclosed that BA would return its iconic B747 airplane to Nigeria. The airplane was withdrawn at the heat of recession, which forced the airline to deploy a smaller B767 on the lucrative London-Lagos route.
He said: “This B747 is going to be more refined with Inflight Entertainment (IFE) improved on it. I think we have 120 channels of different movies that you can watch, meals are better, seats are better and that is where the £400 million expenditure on Club World as quoted in the press is going. That £400 million is not just for the Nigerian route but on all our aircraft that we have in Club World.
“That is why we are bringing this on and we are very confident that the customers can only be the better for it. Recently we launched new fares. We are having fares in the economy for about $440 to London and we are having Business class for $2800 to London