African Aviation: Has the Lucrative Accra-Lagos Route collapsed?

AMCON arik carrier

By Ikechi Uko
Ikechi Ayo Iroche had booked a Business Class ticket on Medview from Accra to Lagos and when he turned up at the Airport on Sunday morning he found out the flight has been cancelled and nobody informed him. He had to buy an Arik ticket for $315 to get back home to Lagos. That probably was a sign of things to come. Today it would have been worse as an economy ticket from Lagos to Accra is between $200 and $300 depending on whose exchange rate you are using. The bottom has finally fallen out of the once lucrative Lagos Accra market. As Arik and Aero are now the only regular Nigerian Carriers on the route complemented by the dogged but surely growing Ghanaian carrier Africa World Airlines AWA.

Even Arik and Aero have scaled down operations to once a day in some instances and the use of a smaller aircraft. Medview and Dana the other Nigerian carriers on the route have become somewhat Epileptic.The biggest winner on this route is turning out to be the Ghanaian carrier AWA. It had applied a right equipment an Embraer 45 and changed schedules many times to find the right spot and timing. It established a smart schedule integrity for its evening flight always leaving almost on time. Now with the Forex crisis in Nigeria and AWA price stability it’s only disadvantage which was the fact that most Nigerians don’t like small planes has turned into an advantage as Aero now uses a Dash-8 and Arik sometimes a CRJ all small crafts. Arik because of its multiple connections and network is also surviving added to its new lower pricing as compared to Aero.

awaAWA would be the first Ghanaian Carrier to survive the Brutal competition on the Lagos Accra route. Other attempts by Antrak in the past had failed. The over supply of Available seats on the route helped depress the market coupled with shrinking economic activity in Nigeria. Dana had started a daily evening flight to Accra with an MD 83 aircraft to join Medview that had a daily morning flight using a B737-400. Arik flies twice daily with a B737-700 next gen. and Aero twice daily with a B737-500. There were flights by ASKY from Lagos via Lome to Accra using a dash 8 . There daily flights from Abuja by Arik to Accra. Outside Lagos Abuja and Port Harcourt this was the sweet route for Nigeria Airlines. It was a bragging right for an Airline to initiate a flight to Accra. But with a supply of over 1500 seats daily the competition was intense. The Land route had ABC and Chisco doing 3 or 4 buses a day to Accra along with other coach services. More than 100,000 Nigerians hit the Accra route in a year.

Lure of Ghana
Last year after the inauguration of President Buhari the Out going President of Neighbouring Benin Republic paid him a visit. President Boni Yaya complained that while Benin is the 37th state in Nigeria based on cultural and Language similarities Nigerians fly over Benin to go and invest in Ghana.

Thousands of Nigerian students school in Ghana. When Private Universities are established in Ghana it is targeted at Nigerian students. They accept NECO as entry requirements so it’s quite easy for failed JAMB candidates to head to Ghana. With Incessant Strikes by Nigerian Universities most Parents relocated theirs wards to Ghana. It was reported that 50% of the top Real Estate sales in Accra are done by Nigerians with the successful sales of the highly priced Luxury villa by the owners of Movenpick Hotel a prime example. Nigerian Families went on holidays in Ghana and every Hotel in Accra relied on the supply of happy spending Nigerians for their cash flow These lure for all things Ghana had guaranteed passengers for the Airlines. All these continued until May 29 2015 and a new leader emerged in Nigeria and everything fell apart.

aeroJust before 2015 the market was so sure of the Nigerians that all Ghanaian Hotels stopped marketing in Nigeria. They have taken it for Granted that the Nigerians will come. Even the Ghana Tourism Authority stopped attending the annual Travel show in Lagos Akwaaba. In their absence South African Tourism , Dubai Tourism and Kenya increased their marketing in Nigeria in the case of Dubai and South Africa very Aggressive. So while the Ghana number were declining Dubai, Kenya and South Africa grew its Arrivals from Nigeria.

Aero has proven to be the most Resilient of all Nigerian carriers despite being accused earlier in its operations of lacking courage. It is the oldest Airline still flying in Nigeria today. It was a competitor to Virgin Nigeria on the Accra route when it started in 2004. Arik joined later and had since prospered on the route. This was a Bellview cash cow before it collapsed. It is also the graveyard of many airlines.

When a Nigerian Airlines thinks it has matured it heads to Accra and when they lose out on the route they eventually collapse. There is no Airline that lost on the route that eventually survived. It’s usually a sign of tough times for the Airline. But in this situation the problem is the near collapse of the Nigerian economy in the last one year. If foreign Airlines are pulling out of Nigeria because of the Forex crisis how many Airlines will be left standing by the end of this year. The signs are there for all to see, the Passenger is now paying more than 3 times the cost of a 50 minutes flight. It might get worse as the market shrinks. The prices will go up unless there is an increased supply of seats by one of the other Airlines.

When the prices go up it will attract more carriers and more carriers will eventually depress the market again. It has happened many times before and is happening again now. So fasten your seat belt for the rough ride. No one knows how long it will last. Considering the fact that Nigerians are still traveling it will be nice for Ghana to restart its marketing effort in Nigeria or suffer the fate of The Gambia that lost a huge part of its Nigerian Travelers with the exit of Virgin Nigeria and Gambian Bird. It will be nice to have more Ghanaians travel to Nigeria.

It is against this background that Tourism and Travel Leaders from all over West Africa will be meeting in Accra, Ghana on the 15th of July 2016, at the Accra Weizo event, to discuss The challenges facing Travels in West Africa.

danaAccra Weizo is an event put together by the organizers of Akwaaba African Travel Market with the support of Ghana Ministry of Tourism Culture and Creative Arts.
The 2016 edition themed: “Seamless Travels in West Africa” will host a discussion session on West Africa as a Single Destination.

The session will have as discussants the President of Nigeria Association of Tour Operators (NATOP),Tour Operators Union of Ghana (TOUGHA), National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies (NANTA), and heads of the Tourism Associations from Benin and Togo. It will be moderated by a leading Ghanaian Journalist.

Accra Weizo is hosted by La Palm Royal Beach Hotel, supported by Ethiopian Airlines and Accra city hotel.
The 2nd Accra Weizo is themed: “Seamless Travel in West-Africa”. It will be an in-depth look at ways to improve Travel and Tourism growth in West Africa through easy access to towns and cities in West Africa. Improving and simplifying Airport and Border processes; Standardizing Hotel and facilities for tourism through shared vision.

The Guest Speaker in the Aviation session is Mr. Henock Teferra, the Managing Director of ASKY Airlines, ASKY Airlines is a pan Africa airline, based in Lome, Togo. He will be speaking on the topic “The Challenges of Running a Successful Regional Airline in West Africa, at the Event.
The Tourism session will be on “The Prospect of West Africa as a Single Tourism Destination”. There will be case studies like “SAT Experience in West Africa” by Hloni Pitso, the Regional Manager of South Africa Tourism in West Africa.

Other speakers at this year’s event are the Chief Executive Officer of Aero Contractors Limited, Captain Fola Akinkuotu and the Vice Chairman of SAHCOL Mr. Chike Ogeah.
Captain Akinkuotu who was the former Director General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), is also a pilot, as well as flight and aircraft engineer, and has vast experience in the aviation industry will be heading the team of panelists which include several top aviation experts and government functionaries as they discuss and deal with issues that relate the how theme of this year’s event: “Seamless Travel in West-Africa” during the 2nd Accra Weizo.

Mr. Chike Ogeah served as Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Skyway Aviation Handling Company Ltd. Mr. Ogeah is currently the Vice Chairman of Skyway Aviation Handling Company Ltd. Mr. Chike will be speaking on ‘Integrating Airport Operations in West Africa.
Mr. Ikechi Uko, the Organizer, said Accra Weizo is a one-day Travel Seminar, Awards, Exhibition and the objective is to improve Travel and Tourism growth in West Africa through easy access to towns and cities in West Africa. The West Africa Award (Balafon) will hold at 5pm, with award categories to include: West Africa Tourism Man of the Year, West Africa Aviation Man of the Year, West African Personality of the Year, and Top 50 Hotels in West Africa.

Over 150 Travel Professionals are expected from all over West-Africa. There will be tours on the 14th and 16th to Cape Coast.

The maiden edition of Accra Weizo in 2015, attracted some global rated expert like Adefunke Adeyemi, Regional-Head, IATA for Africa and the Middle East. She spoke on Intra Africa Air Connectivity, the facts, Challenges and Benefits. Mr. Frank Nneji, Managing Director, ABC Transport Limited, Dr. Kwabena Adjei, Founder Kasapreko Company Limited, Femi Adefope- Head HRG & GSA Delta Airlines in Nigeria were all Speakers at Accra Weizo 2015. The Tourism session will be on “The Prospect of West Africa as a Single Tourism Destination”. There will be case studies like “SAT Experience in West Africa” by Hloni Pitso, the Regional Manager of South Africa Tourism in West Africa.
Other speakers at this year’s event are the Chief Executive Officer of Aero Contractors Limited, Captain Fola Akinkuotu and the Vice Chairman of SAHCOL Mr. Chike Ogeah.

Captain Akinkuotu who was the former Director General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), is also a pilot, as well as flight and aircraft engineer, and has vast experience in the aviation industry will be heading the team of panelists which include several top aviation experts and government functionaries as they discuss and deal with issues that relate the how theme of this year’s event: “Seamless Travel in West-Africa” during the 2nd Accra Weizo. Mr. Chike Ogeah served as Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Skyway Aviation Handling Company Ltd. Mr. Ogeah is currently the Vice Chairman of Skyway Aviation Handling Company Ltd. Mr. Chike will be speaking on ‘Integrating Airport Operations in West Africa.

Mr. Ikechi Uko, the Organizer, said Accra Weizo is a one-day Travel Seminar, Awards, Exhibition and the objective is to improve Travel and Tourism growth in West Africa through easy access to towns and cities in West Africa. The West Africa Award (Balafon) will hold at 5pm, with award categories to include: West Africa Tourism Man of the Year, West Africa Aviation Man of the Year, West African Personality of the Year, and Top 50 Hotels in West Africa.

Over 150 Travel Professionals are expected from all over West-Africa. There will be tours on the 14th and 16th to Cape Coast.

The maiden edition of Accra Weizo in 2015, attracted some global rated expert like Adefunke Adeyemi, Regional-Head, IATA for Africa and the Middle East. She spoke on Intra Africa Air Connectivity, the facts, Challenges and Benefits. Mr. Frank Nneji, Managing Director, ABC Transport Limited, Dr. Kwabena Adjei, Founder Kasapreko Company Limited, Femi Adefope- Head HRG & GSA Delta Airlines in Nigeria were all Speakers at Accra Weizo 2015.

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