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Air travel records 18m passengers, 11 per cent traffic surge


[FILE PHOTO] Nigeria’s Aviation minister Hadi Sirika

The aviation industry has recorded an upsurge in passenger traffic, with no fewer than 18 million passengers now travelling the Nigerian airspace in a year.The surge, compared with the 2017 figures, represents about 11 per cent increase in passenger traffic.
Similarly, the marginal growth trend continued in the first quarter (Q1) of 2019, with no fewer than 3.5 million passengers travelling through the airports.The Q1 report released by the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), showed an increase of 76,397 passengers and 2.23 per cent growth compared to the 3.43 million passengers recorded in the first quarter of 2018.
The Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika, at a recent meeting with stakeholders in Lagos, said despite the problem of funding, it was not all grim for the industry, as it recorded marginal growth of 33 per cent rise in local passenger traffic and 11 per cent in international travels.
Both segments bring the total yearly traffic to 18 million passengers a year. In effect, the industry’s contributions to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) have improved some notches from 0.4 to 0.6 per cent as at last year. Sirika said: “It was very difficult achieving all these because we went through very challenging times. The income of government has lessened; so you sometimes see aviation having about 11 per cent fund release. It is only magic that could make you do some of these things (projects).
“The major and number one challenge is the source of funding. I’m sure airlines like Air Peace, Dana and others would want to be the best airline on earth, but they cannot because there is no funding available. Yet, you cannot complete with those that have 120 aircraft fleet, and all their airplanes within the age bracket of five years,” he said.
Recall that in 2018, international air passengers’ traffic rose by 13 per cent, up from 1.99 million in 2017 to 2.25 million in 2018.The monthly breakdown released by FAAN showed that 1.42 million passengers comprising 789,883 arrivals and 633,069 departures in 18,653 aircraft movements were recorded in the month of January.
However, the traffic dropped in February, as 976,112 passengers comprising 462,447 arrivals and 513,665 departures were recorded. Note that the drop in air passengers traffic in February may be due to the general elections.March, however, showed a rebound as the figures rose to 1.11 million passengers, comprising of 556,297 arrivals and 554,220 departures.
FAAN’s report further shows that about 2.56 million passengers travelled within the country, while  42,905 domestic flights were operated across the nation’s 22 airports during the period.This shows a sign of rising traffic at Nigerian Airports when compared to the previous year. For domestic air travellers, domestic Aircraft movements increased by 11.2 per cent in 2018 year-on-year.
A total of 951,128 international passengers travelled in and out of the country through the airports during the period under review. On the other hand, 11,095 international flights were operated across the nation’s airports.The 2018 full year report shows that the total of international aircraft movements increased by 38.8 per cent, as against the 9.16 per cent growth of 2017.
Just like the 2018 air passengers traffic data indicated, the Q1 of 2019 has so far shown that Lagos recorded the highest air passengers’ traffic. Lagos airport recorded 1.53 million passengers, comprising 860,218 on domestic routes and 674,153 on the international routes.The Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja ranked second as it recorded 1.02 million passengers comprising 824,847 on domestic routes, while the international routes recorded 203,954 passengers.
Port Harcourt International Airport (PHIA) in Rivers State recorded 271,948 passengers comprising 251,410 domestic passengers and 20,538 international travellers. Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano, recorded 322,659 passengers comprising 281,234 domestic and 41,425 international passengers.
Aviation Security expert, Group Capt. John Ojikutu (rtd), said the 18 million annual passengers’ traffic is too small for a country like Nigeria.“Our population should support 60 to 80 million air travellers annually, if Johannesburg airport in South Africa has average of 22 million passengers’ traffic annually. That is what gives you earnings to support growth,” Ojikutu said.

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FAANHadi Sirika
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