‘Nigerian market kept Kenya Airways through hard times’ - THE GUARDIAN
By Wole Oyebade
The survival of Kenyan national carrier, Kenya Airways, from recent economic hard times has been linked to supports enjoyed from the Nigerian market.
The Country Manager of the East African carrier, Hafeez Balogun, said this in appreciation of the Nigerian patronage, which again underscores the importance of the market to international carriers.
Balogun, while receiving members of the National Association of Nigerian Travel Agencies (NANTA) and Kenya Association of Travel Agents (KATA) recently in Lagos, said the local agencies consistently support the airline, especially for clientele’s holiday programmes and tourism.
Recall that the airline, partly owned by the Kenyan government and KLM among other investors, was in financial difficulties between 2015 and 2017. This was due to operational losses, for reasons not unconnected with rapid expansion of the fleet and routes, fuel-price hedging and the 1996 agreement with KLM that was considered intrusive in the running of the flag carrier.
Though the airline returned to recovery path late 2017, no fewer than 22 out of its 26 workers in Nigeria were sacked, leading to protest and picketing by aviation workers’ unions in 2018.
The airline continued on recovery path, acquiring new aircraft and route expansion. The airline recently launched a direct flight from East Africa to United States. Passengers on Kenya Airways’ Boeing 787-8 Dream liner now take 15-hour flight from Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport to New York.
Kenya earned $1.2 billion in 2017 from tourism, more than a 20 per cent increase from $989 million the previous year, and the US is one of the country’s biggest tourism markets.
Balogun said though a lot of doubts heralded the New York route, over 900 Nigerian passengers had been flown on the route till date.
“Nigerians in the Diaspora are also coming home on Kenyan Airways. So, we thank Nigeria for supporting Kenya Airways.”
The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) also commended Kenya Airways for efficient services. Director of Consumer Protection Department at the NCAA, Adamu Abdullahi, said out of the 244 flights the airline operated in Nigeria in the last six months, only 68 were delayed, two cancelled and one had a ramp return.
President of the National Association of Travel Agencies (NANTA), Bernard Bankole, said the Nigerian market is viable and a feeder for other markets.
Bankole said that it goes to show the enormous gains that await the country “if we are able to get it right with our national carrier plan”.
Indeed, no fewer than 34 foreign carriers operate in and out of Nigerian cities almost on a daily basis. Among them are nine African carriers.
For instance, Ethiopian Airlines, the largest carrier on the continent, operates into Enugu, Kano, Abuja, and Lagos daily. Similarly, Turkish Airline operates in four cities of Abuja, Kano, Lagos, and Port Harcourt. Emirates Airline currently has four frequencies daily from Lagos and Abuja.
A recent fact-check by the Airlines Operators of Nigeria (AON) revealed that the foreign carriers currently account for 90 per cent of the four million international passengers that travel through Nigerian airports yearly. The capital flight is in excess of $3 billion (N1.050 trillion).