Domestic airline operators have increased flight frequencies and relaunched new routes for the yuletide celebrations to ensure passengers are accommodated on every flight.
Despite these arrangements in place, the issues of harmattan haze, aviation fuel scarcity and poor facilitation due to broken down conveyor belts have resulted in flight delays and cancellations.
In the month of December every year, there is increased business activities across airports in the country due to upsurge in passenger traffic.
The traffic quadruples a week before the Christmas and new year festivities after schools vacation and public holidays declared by government.
It is not different this year as the different airport terminals are filled to capacity with passengers jostling to buy tickets and board their flights to different destination.
Spokesman for one of the domestic airlines, Mr. Kingsley Ezemwan says, passenger traffic is impressive, adding that, airlines have made adequate arrangements in terms of aircraft capacity to handle passengers.
“And that’s the reason why we are preparing more to provide connectivity and in terms of lad factor we are doing 90% at the moment”.
Though passenger turn-out is good, to get the tickets to travel, many have had to pay as much as over a N130,000 to their destination despite the 10% discount on fares by some airlines.
As at today, Lagos to Abuja on economy class the least airfare is N57,500 depending on the time of day of travel while business class is N124,000 and above depending on time of travel and airline.
Lagos to Enugu, airfare is from N69, Owerri N50,00 and above, Kano over N130,000, Port Harcourt range from N132,000 to N148,000, Benin N82,000.
President, Aircraft Owners Association of Nigeria, AOAN, Mr. Alex Nwuba speaks on the airfares.
“The airfares are high but we see on certain key market that competition is forcing tickets down so when you have a N100,000 fare and you can already find N55,000 fare”.
Again, Mr. Kingsley Ezemwan says, to get cheaper fares, it is better to book and pay online days before the flight.
” Yes on the website you get something cheaper but else where…”.
This is true because many passengers who bought their tickets same day of travel paid a little higher or twice the amount of those who booked online ahead of their travel.
Another characteristics of this period is delays and cancellation of flights due to the harmattan dust haze also called the devil’s dust.
This dust reduces visibility and thus make it difficult or sometimes impossible for aircraft to land on some runways.
Currently, this is the challenge for airlines coupled with the scarcity of aviation fuel popularly called Jet A1.
Director General, Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA, Captain Musa Nuhu says, there is no cause for alarm as the landing aids have been calibrated to assist pilots to land in poor visibility based on the weather minimum of the airport.
“To ensure that they are in top shape when inclement weather comes flights can operate with minimal obstruction”.
Another problem as highlighted by the Vice President, Airline Operators of Nigeria, AON, Mr. Allen Onyema is poor infrastructure for quick and seamless facilitation of passengers.
He listed inadequate check-in counters and epileptic conveyor belts.
“A situation whereby you have two counters and checking in thousands of passengers, delays would definitely come”.
He lamented that, AON had written to the appropriate authority to address the problem but to no avail, adding that, as long as the problem persist, they will keep talking about it.