Nigeria’s airport passenger traffic hits three-year high - BUSINESSDAY
BY Olamide Ologunagbe
Air passenger traffic in Africa’s biggest economy rose by eight percent to 16.2 million last year, up from 15 million in 2021, according to BusinessDay’s analysis of the air traffic data released by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA).
Despite the surge in passenger numbers, the figures are still well below the pre-pandemic levels recorded in 2019. A total of 18.1 million passengers passed through Nigerian airports in 2019.
The gradual return to air travel in Nigeria can be attributed to the relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions and the full reopening of the global economy.
However, the country’s aviation industry is still facing challenges, including the rising cost of aviation fuel, high airport charges, and the shortage of skilled personnel that has continued to hinder its full recovery post-pandemic.
“The issue of trapped funds affecting international airlines is what has prompted the hike in air fares, making airfares exorbitant again, unlike four years ago,” said Susan Akporiaye, president of National Association of Nigerian Travel Agencies.
The data released by the NCAA also showed that there has been a steady increase in passenger traffic since the height of the pandemic in 2020.
In January 2020, a total of 1.5 million passengers travelled by air as countries closed their borders to curtail the spread of the virus.
The figure rose to 15 million in 2021, when countries began reopening their borders, a 900 percent rise in passenger traffic when compared to 1.5 million passengers in 2020.
The talent exodus from the country, popularly known as ‘japa’, boosted the number of outbound international passengers in 2022 to 1.8 million passengers, recording over a 700,000 increase compared to 2021.
According to the NCAA, the number of outbound passengers had increased by 54.7 percent in 2021 to 1.1 million from 717,261 passengers in 2020.
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Akporiaye said there has been an increase in the number of people wanting to leave the country, especially in 2022, which led to a sharp rise in passenger traffic.
“People are travelling more to leave the country and not return due to economic insecurity,” she said.
Inbound international passenger traffic was 1.6 million in 2022, a 45.5 percent increase when compared to 1.1 million passengers in 2021.
Domestic airlines airlifted a total of 12.67 million passengers, made up of 6.31 million inbound travellers and 6.36 million outbound ones.
The data also showed that in 2022, 26 airlines carried out a total of 13,003 international operations to and from Nigeria while 11 airlines operated 80,328 domestic flights.
In 2022, 37 airlines flew over Nigeria, with 26 airlines running 13,003 foreign flights and 11 airlines operating 80,328 domestic flights.