Domestic airlines woo passengers to salvage operations
• Arik launches buy one, get one free ticket, Air Peace slashes fares at Valentine
If domestic airlines keep their words, then air travellers in the country are in for special offers ahead of February 14 Valentine’s Day.
The airlines, at least three till date, have pledged to reduce cost of air fares in the tune of N5, 000 to N15, 000 off the premium and depending on the route.
This is “to appreciate our loyal customers”, the airlines have said. But behind the appreciation, The Guardian learnt, is the fresh drive to attract shrinking passenger traffic, amidst growing apathy on account of economic recession.
Some of the airlines that have lately recorded drops in patronage are working hard with marketing incentives to attract new customers to boost revenue and improve financial status.
Recall that domestic airlines, like their passengers too, had it very rough last November, December and early January, coping with the fallout of perennial fuel shortage and harmattan haze. It was a period of high patronage and financial gains that was, however, not optimised by most operators.
With the worst over and all out of the woods, it is time to run at full throttle. But the market seems to be weaning.
Director of Operations of a popular airline said on condition of anonymity that patronage “is not like it used to be.”
He said: “Domestic aviation market should be growing at a steady pace. We have noticed a sharp drop from our end. Everyone is complaining that there is no money. But do you blame the passengers? These days, no one travel except it is very important.”
Director General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Muhtar Usman, recently confirmed downturn in flights and passengers, comparing 2016 figures with those of previous year.
Usman noted that the agency recorded an average of 597 flights daily in 2016, being a sharp drop from 700 recorded daily in 2015.
From January to September 2015, total number of domestic passengers was put at 8,130,568, by 202,352 flights. Foreign airlines for the same period carried 3,272,331 with 31,493 flights.
January to September 2016 produced a total of 8,090,816 domestic passengers, from 130,745 flights. Foreign airlines airlifted 3,272,331 passengers, with 33,099 flights for the same periods.
The downturn notwithstanding, marketing departments of some airlines are under pressure to rake in a significant fraction of an average of 42,000 air passengers that travel every day.
Arik Air, for instance, has rolled out a series of sales promotions to attract customers. The West and Central Africa’s largest airline though tied the sales promotions to its 10th anniversary celebrations, the main motive was to regain its number one position recently taken by Air Peace.
The ‘summary of flight operations and complaints for the month of November’, released by the NCAA recently, showed that Air Peace with about 30 per cent of Arik’s fleet size, attracted the highest number of passengers put at 205,917, forcing Arik to the second place on the log with 186,004 passengers.
Spokesperson of Arik Air, Banji Ola, said that the first among the planned offers is the special Valentine promo fare, which opened on 31 January, 2017.
“Customers can take advantage of this offer by buying one return ticket to any destination within Nigeria and then get another return ticket free for their loved one.
“The offer is open for purchase on or before 14 February, 2017. To make this super flexible, convenient and to give adequate time for customers to plan their getaways with their loved ones, the offer permits the first sector to be travelled anytime until 28 February, 2017 while the return sector can be completed on or before 31 March, 2017,” Ola said.
Apparently to consolidate its lead, Air Peace announced a discount scheme for its customers to travel with tickets as low as N16, 532 on all routes.
Corporate Communications Manager of the airline, Chris Iwarah, explained that the cut in airfare was the carrier’s Valentine’s Day special gift to its customers and other air travellers.
The tickets, Iwarah added, were valid for all its domestic routes and for travelling throughout February.
He said: “We greatly value our loyal customers who have continued to demonstrate absolute belief in our capacity to deliver the best flight experience in Nigeria and beyond. Our esteemed customers have been there all the way and we are thrilled to be the beneficiaries of such a great show of love and trust.
“Over the last two years of our operations, our valued customers’ support has been the biggest enabler of our massive growth, success and vision to be the world’s best airline out of Africa and deliver nothing but the best in comfort, safety and affordability.
“For our part, we will continue to look out for ways to compensate our wonderful customers for their generous show of love, which has seen us expand with surprising speed. And we thought Valentine’s Day was one of the greatest opportunities to express how appreciative we are of the sincere love we have continued to receive from our esteemed customers,” he said.