Arik Air, Nigeria and West Africa’s largest carrier, has begun exploring the possibility of introducing a direct service to India, following a recent visit from the Indian High Commissioner to Nigeria, His Excellency, Ajjampur Rangalah Ghanashyam to the airline’s headquarters in Lagos.
The High Commissioner was at the Arik Air Aviation Centre to explore opportunities on how to facilitate direct flights between Nigeria and India. Presently, there are no direct flights between the two countries, with travelers currently forced to board connecting flights through Addis Ababa, South Africa or Dubai.
According to the High Commissioner, direct flights between Nigeria and India would boost business, tourism, save passengers flight time and reduce the stress of the journey. “Direct flights are also important during medical emergencies, because direct movement of patients during emergencies would save a lot of lives,” he said.
Speaking after inspecting the facilities at Arik Air’s headquarters, Ghanashyam said he was impressed with the profile of the airline, which appears to him a professionally run carrier. He stressed Arik Air’s fleet size, route network and staff strength meant it was an airline that would serve as a strong partner in providing direct flights between India and Nigeria.
“With over 120 daily flights, 26 aircraft and over 2000 direct employees, Arik Air qualifies as a serious player for any Indian airline to partner with in order to facilitate seamless flights between the two countries,” he said. “This visit to Arik Air is the first stage in building an initial bridge of understanding. The airlines will decide the potential and viability of a partnership.”
In our analysis below we look in greater detail at O&D passenger demand between Nigeria and India over the past ten years. The data shows that bi-directional O&D demand has seen an average annual growth of 25.3 per cent across the period as traffic has more than trebled from around 46,000 passengers in 2004 to just under 150,000 in 2013. There has been rapid growth over the past three years with annual rises above 20 per cent in 2011, 2012 and 2013.
It is the East African and Gulf hub carriers that are currently dominating this market. In 2013, Ethiopian Airlines was the largest operator between Nigeria and India with a 35.1 per cent share of the O&D demand via Addis Ababa, followed by Etihad Airways via Abu Dhabi (23.1 per cent), Emirates Airline via Dubai (17.3 per cent), Qatar Airways via Doha (14.5 per cent) and Kenya Airways via Nairobi (5.1 per cent).
The largest traffic flows between Nigeria and India are unsurprisingly dominated by the major cities. More than 50,000 passengers flew between Lagos and Mumbai in 2013, while approximately 46,000 flew between Lagos and Delhi. However, there was also notable passenger flows to the two Indian cities from Abuja, as well as from Lagos to Chennai and Bangalore.