Airlines Jostling for Nigeria's Burgeoning Aviation Market

Nigeria is a market that cannot be ignored and its travel industry has been growing in leaps and bounds particularly in the business travel sector. Of the African population that now flies across the continent, Nigerians constitute the vast majority.

Many Nigerians have invested in other African countries and in the recent years, Nigerian businesses and corporations have stretched their wings to newer markets in Africa. Apart from business, Nigeria also has a huge diaspora in addition to a huge student number of students studying broad. While traffic in areas such as eastern Africa, Southern Africa and North Africa is often driven by tourism, the Nigerian traffic is very mulch-faceted.  The movement of Nigerians within Africa and from Africa to countries in the Middle East, Far East and Europe means Nigeria will remain the most important aviation market in Africa.

Apart from European and Middle Eastern Carriers, African airlines are also intent on gaining an advantage of the Nigerian aviation pie, particularly Kenya Airways and Ethiopian Airlines. Kenya Airways especially has a very strong West African network with the airline servicing almost all the major cities of West Africa including Accra, Abidjan, Bamako, Dakar, Banjul, Cotonou, Douala, Yaounde, Monrovia and Freetown. Data from Innovata shows that West Africa is Kenya Airways biggest market with over 27,000 seats per week followed by Eastern Africa.

The airline is also expected to service all the major North African cities with the addition of Tripoli and Tunis with the exception Algiers and the cities in Morocco. Although the two countries enjoy warm diplomatic ties with Nairobi, there's little trade between Kenya and the two countries.

Nigeria's private carrier Arik Air has also been emerging to face stiff competition from carriers from Europe and the Middle East.

Airlines are making huge profits on the Nigerian routes in spite of the decaying aviation infrastructure in the country, an issue that caused a major standoff between the Nigerian Civil aviation authorities and the British airlines British Airways and Virgin Atlantic. An issue that forced high level goernment offocials from both countries to come face to face and resolve the standoff.

This year was a turning point in the course of aviation in the country as a new hands on aviation Minister took over with promises to rebuild infrastructure and confidence in the nation's aviation industry. At last there is an assurance from government that something is being done. But it seems Nigeria's aviation infrastructure is not dampening the spirits of global airlines eager to a grab share of the oil producer's large business travel market.

Two American airlines are already competing for the Nigerian aviation market. Delta Airlines improved its product offering early this year for Nigerian passengers by investing part of the $2 billion earmarked for upgrading global service delivery in upgrading its air service delivery to Nigeria. This will include rolling out full flat bed BusinessElite on flights between Abuja's Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport and New York-JFK, via Accra, Ghana. United Airlines also launched flights from Houston Airport to Lagos in November in November operating a B777.

Middle Eastern giant Emirates has also been running profitable operations for some time now. The Nigerian travel market is definitely ripe for the taking and will continue to see a fierce battle as various carriers jostle for a share of the market.

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