Ahead of the April 19 deadline for the reopening of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport (NAIA), airlines and travel agents are reporting a resurgence in ticket sales on the Abuja route after over five weeks of lull.
The Federal Government had shut the NAIA on March 8, 2017, for six weeks to allow contractors repair the dilapidated sections of the runway. The shutdown saw leading foreign airlines like British Airways, Lufthansa, KLM-Air France, and South African Airways suspending their flights from Abuja having rejected the Kaduna International Airport as alternate airport to the closed NAIA.
But barely a week to the reopening of NAIA, some travel agents who spoke to Daily Sun said they are recording a rise in the number of passengers buying tickets to fly from various destinations around the world into the Abuja airport.
“The resumption of flights into the Abuja airport is indeed heart warming and the response from passengers has equally been awesome,” said Olu Ohunayo, Manager at Zenith Travel and Tours Limited.
Ohunayo described the Abuja airport as key revenue earner for the industry, stressing that every investor whose business was affected by the closure should really be excited about its reopening.
It is estimated that the industry lost about N400 billon during the six-week closure of the Abuja airport, with airlines, ground handling companies, hotels, and travel agents accounting for the bulk of the losses.
A Nigerian manager for one of the foreign airlines told Daily Sun, “that foreign airlines were badly affected by the shutdown of the Abuja airport. We not only lost revenue from passengers who were no longer buying our tickets, but even had to make refunds to those who booked ahead but later insisted that they needed the money to fly other airlines from Kaduna airport. But today, we have started selling tickets and there has been a rush by our passengers for tickets on the Abuja route,” added the official who said he was not authorised to speak to the media.
Aviation industry analyst, Mr. Chris Aligbe, in a telephone chat with Daily Sun acknowledged that life is gradually returning to businesses affected by the closure of the Abuja airport.
“Foreign airlines have started selling tickets and that is an indication that they are prepared to return to that route,” said Aligbe.
“It was the airlines that had complained about the poor state of the runway and for them to commence ticket sales ahead of the reopening of the airport shows the level of confidence they have on the rehabilitation work done by the Nigerian government on the Abuja airport runway,” added Aligbe.