The records of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) show that passenger traffic by the end of 2014 rose to 15.5 million with 256,000 aircraft movement and 189 million kilogrammes of cargo and it is projected that passenger traffic figures in 2015 may not rise too high above that of 2014.
This is as a result of the slowing economy and lean individual purchasing power witnessed in 2015 but rapid changes may see the figures rise by early 2016 with a boost in air travel and increase in agro-allied exports.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has described Africa as the next emerging growth as the continent is projected to record a boost in economic development in the foreseeable future and the steady passenger growth in Nigeria because of her growing economy and the inclination of international investors to open businesses in Nigeria, places the country as the biggest economy in the continent.
Samson Fatokun, the IATA Area Manager, South West Africa stated in a recently paper presentation that Africa is recording modest financial improvement and as the biggest economy in the region, it is expected that this would have positive impact in Nigeria.
He said the priority in air travel in Africa is safety, infrastructure and common policies; noting that the factors that would drive air travel in the continent are liberalization, capacity development and passenger right among others.
Nigeria, according to recent estimates would earn additional $128 million from improved air connectivity; but Fatokun said there are compelling economic reasons why Africa should embrace liberalisation of its airspace and this include the fact that most nations in the region have fragile economy and this could be remedied by increase in air travel in the continent.
Fatokun said Africa as an emerging economy would with liberalization of its airspace or open sky record $80 billion in GDP, 6.9 million jobs and 69.8 million passengers. It would also record 371 commercial airports, 245 airlines, 1, 273 aircraft in service and 1, 584, 000 flights.
The liberalisation also would see that every capital of every ECOWAS country has direct flight to the Federal Capital City of Nigeria, Abuja as the headquarters of ECOWAS. This is expected to increase trade in West Africa and also increase in passenger movement in the sub-region.
Presently the number of Nigerians that travel by air is still less than one per cent of the population. Managing Director of IRS Airlines and official of Airline Operators of Nigeria, Yemi Dada had attributed this to low economic empowerment of average Nigerians.