Total passenger movement figures in 2016 and 2017 indicated that Nigeria recorded lower passenger traffic last year despite the fact that economic recession peaked in 2016 and started easing in 2017 as indices show that the economy witnessed a rebound with the reduction of exchange rate from N500 per dollar at the height of the recession to the current N360.
Passenger traffic movement records from the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) showed that the total passenger movement in 2017 was 13, 704, 215, while the figures in 2016 was 14, 361, 587; indicating a reduction by about 4.6 per cent.
Domestic and international passenger traffic for major airports of Lagos, Abuja, Kano and Port Harcourt showed that there was consistent reduction in passenger movement in 2017 when compared to 2016.
Figures for the domestic passenger movement for the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos in 2017 was 3, 684, 052, while that of 2016 was 3, 748,833, showing a reduction by 1.7 per cent.
International passenger movement for Lagos airport in 2017 was 2, 869,099, while that of 2016 was 2, 945, 914, showing 2.6 per cent reduction.
The Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja recorded in the same period domestic passenger moment of 2, 826, 113 in 2017 and 3, 344,164 in 2016 with reduction of 15. 5 per cent. Also, the international passenger traffic for the airport was 734, 509 in 2017 and 885, 926 in 2016 with reduction of 17.1 per cent.
The figures also showed that in 2017, the Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano recorded domestic passenger movement of 253, 578 and 255, 568 in 2016 with reduction of 0.8 per cent, while international passenger movement in 2017 was 186, 795 and 202, 589 in 2016 with reduction of 7.8 per cent.
Port Harcourt International Airport, Omagwa recorded domestic passenger movement of 865,659 in 2017 and 974, 028 in 2016 with reduction of 11.1 per cent; while international passenger traffic was 81, 125 in 2017 and 91, 499 in 2016 with reduction of 11.3 per cent.
Beyond comparison between 2017 and 2016, industry experts have observed that passenger growth figures in the last five years hovers between 13 to 16 million, thus defying projections that in 2030 passenger traffic would hit 31 million annually while that of Africa would hit 400 million.
The experts noted that so far Nigeria is not recording substantial increase in air passenger movement and despite the fact that the nation's economy is growing, there seemed to be no growth in capacity in air transport sector.
The figures also indicate that in the next 12 years, Nigeria will increase its passenger traffic by about 18 million in order to meet the 31 million projections by 2030.
Travel expert and organiser of Akwaaba African Travel Market, Ikechi Uko reacting to the passenger growth figures, said that passenger movement is determined by the capacity of the economy, available airport infrastructure, seat supplies by airlines, noting that there have not been new airlines coming into the country, which means that the number of aircraft seats have remained about the same.
"If the economy improves more people will like to travel by air and if there are more aircraft, airlines will bring the fares down to fill the aircraft so with cheaper fares more people will travel. You recall when Aero was offering cheaper, promo fares; more people were travelling by air. So there was more passenger traffic but the current air fares have remained about the same since the last three years," Uko noted.
He also observed that land transport is growing to become alternative to air transport because of improvement on roads, good service offerings by road transporters, adding that modernised airport facilities and efficient service would attract more people to travel by air.
"If you deploy more aircraft as an airline, you will do everything possible to fill the aircraft. You can bring down the fares to ensure that the aircraft is filled and when the fares are down, more people can afford to travel by air," the travel expert also said.