- 14 Sep 2021
- Rebecca Applegarth
- AvBuyer Africa Articles
Relatively speaking, Nigeria has been one of the fastest growing Business Aviation markets in the world, a fact propelled by a mix of variables. Felipe Reisch discusses the bizjet ecosystem in the country with Jetseta’s CEO, Harold Okwa, along with the impact of Covid-19…
These include a relatively stable economy, a shaky Commercial Aviation system, and a shift in perception by Business/Private Aviation users. Nowadays flying in a private jet is no longer seen as a luxury but a tool to increase productivity levels and enhance cost efficiency.
This new realization of what private aviation brings to the table has allowed the market in Nigeria to bloom. Nevertheless, as with every market in the world, the Covid-19 pandemic halted the growth in demand and plans of investment since the first months of 2020 – although it has also presented an opportunity for operators.
“As with various sectors in the world, the Covid-19 pandemic had adverse effects on standard methods of operations,” Okwa (pictured left) observes. “The majority of BizAv operations were initially slowed as most countries commenced mandatory lockdowns.
“After a few weeks, the pandemic became an opportunity for the entire industry, as operators became the primary focus and source of commuting. The main reason for this was fewer passengers flying together, which meant less contact with strangers.
“It increased the awareness amongst the middle class who would not usually fly private,” he explains.
Before the pandemic, the rise in activity caught the eyes of the government, which removed import duties on new jets and opted to not specify a time restriction for foreign aircraft in Nigeria.
Furthermore, “There is some talk of a few state governments coming together to set up an MRO, along with private individuals”, says Okwa. “This would help reduce the pressure of foreign exchange for [Nigerian] operators when their aircraft are due major maintenance checks.”
Positive movement in the public sector has been partially the result of the increased use of private aviation (driven by a lack of other competitive means for transportation). Indeed, some argue that more immediate economic development returns come from investing in the Business Aviation market, as opposed to building new roads or rail networks.
Whatever the case, the oil and gas industry, as well as finance and manufacturing have benefited from the amenities of the Business Aviation industry, landing in places not served by commercial flights, and connecting Nigerian communities that are otherwise isolated or only precariously connected.
Okwa has a clear vision, saying, “I feel as more organizations begin to resume working from offices and engaging more in face-to-face meetings, demand for BizAv will steadily increase.
“I predict sometime around mid-2022,” he adds. “What factors come into play? Some of the main aspects would include vaccination adoption and the Africa free trade agreement (AFCFTA) implementation.”
Maximizing Access to BizAv in Nigeria
Pandemic or not, the truth is that local companies like Jetseta have risen to the occasion and continue serving local demand through a mobile app connecting travelers to private aviation providers at attractive fares worldwide.
It is a certainty that there are more private aircraft in Nigeria than scheduled airliners, a clear message regarding the preferences and habits of those that can travel by air in the country.
This segment will continue thriving if given the opportunity, thanks to its flexible nature, the extreme privacy, and excellent comfort. Flexibility is the main trait that will always position the segment even above first-class travel aboard the airlines (i.e. negating the need to arrive hours prior to departure and pass through crowded terminals).
As to Jetseta’s plans for the remainder of 2021 and 2022, adapting to a new consumer behavior seems like a priority.
“The pandemic taught us a lot of things which have helped us understand better our customers’ behavior and demand patterns,” Okwa shares. “We hope to adapt our model slightly to better cater for these clients. One of our main aims would be to secure the right partner to run our popular pooling routes, both within and outside of Nigeria.”
Nigerians are demystifying what has been known in the past as a luxury market. Today, Private Aviation needs to be considered an essential tool for growth in the country, connecting different businesses in diverse regions lacking adequate access to daily flights with the scheduled airlines.
Business Aviation is a necessity in Nigeria, not a luxury. We conclude with some brief statistics offering a snapshot of the Nigerian Business Aviation marketplace.