The big boom in Nigeria’s air travel market in the last one year, is attracting major players from the Middle-East, now regarded as the emerging hub of international air travel.
Etihad Airways, Royal Jordanian Airlines, the national carriers of the United Arabs Emirates (UAE) and Jordan, launched daily and fortnightly flights into Lagos consecutively, within one year, and indications are that more big players in that region are gearing up to launch operations into Nigeria.
This is besides the 14 weekly flights already being done by Emirates, another 14 by Qatar Airways, and others still, by their counterpart border airlines, such as Afriquiyya Airways (Tripoli), Egypt Air (Cairo) and Turkish Airlines (Istanbul).
At the launch of Royal Jordanian into Nigeria last week, a senior official of the airline said “a survey conducted showed that daily operations into Nigeria would be useful to our expansion strategy into other networks”.
“Feasibility studies show that running regular flights to Nigeria will be useful to our expansion strategy that goes beyond flying to the traditional markets of Europe, United States and the Far East”, Bassel Kilani, the airline’s spokesman said, adding that “The importance of Africa, as well as the economic and industrial boom that the continent is witnessing, called for the decision by Jordan to operate direct flights to Lagos”.
Etihad Airways commenced flights between Lagos and Abu Dhabi in July last yaer, operating six flights per week, with the frequency quickly increasing in March 2013 to a daily service, as a result of its success on the route.
“There is a huge amount of international interest and investment focused towards Nigeria. Our fast growing global route network continues to prove popular for the large numbers of international traders and the business community flying between West Africa and the United Arab Emirates, and the major cities in North and Southeast Asia and the Indian Subcontinent”, Maurice Phohleli, Etihad Airways’ general manager, Nigeria and West Africa, said during the airline’s first anniversary in Nigeria.
Speaking on the development, John Ojikutu, a travel analyst said the Middle-Eastern carriers have no choice but to work on the gaps that have been created as a result of lack of capacity from Nigerian carriers, adding that apart from this, travellers now see an international travel market hub in countries in the Middle-East, as against Europe and the United States.
“With over 15 million air travellers from Nigeria and six million accounting for international, Nigeria has no competitor as a hub in the sub-region for now. Sadly, Nigerian carriers which tend to be small operators, rather than merging into one or two strong airlines, so as to muster the muscle required to compete with the foreign airlines, are competing among themselves.
“Meanwhile, individually, they all cannot absorb the Nigeria or regional markets. These are the gaps that the Mid-East airlines are exploiting. Don’t forget also that for Nigerian traders/travellers, the market is in Dubai, Qatar, Far East, China, and not in Europe or the United States anymore”, he said.