Thursday, June 01, 2017 11:50 AM/NBS
In the first quarter of 2017, the performance of the different parts of the Nigerian Aviation sector varied. Both passenger numbers and aircraft movement declined, relative to both the previous quarter and the first quarter of 2016.
This partly resulted from the Abuja Airport closure, but some airports recorded larger percentage declines than Abuja, and declines were also recorded in the previous two quarters, suggesting that other factors were also relevant.
However, the amount of mail moved through Nigerian airports recorded a dramatic increase, especially relative to the first quarter of 2016, compared to which the weight of mail moved was nearly ten times higher. This large year on year increase compensated the sector for the decline in passenger numbers, and led to slight growth of the Air Transport sector in real terms, of 1.5%.
Figure 1: Real Year on Year Growth in Air Transport Sector, (%)
Murtala Muhammed Airport (MMA) in Lagos was the airport to record the most activity, and accounted for 41.4% of domestic passengers, 76.5% of international passengers, 90.3% of cargo movement and 94.9% of mail movement.
Total Passenger Traffic
In the first quarter of 2017, the total number of passengers to pass through Nigerian airports was 2,505,612. Of these, 67.3% were domestic passengers, travelling within Nigeria, and the rest were international, entering or leaving Nigeria.
This represents a considerable drop both compared to the previous quarter (of 31.3%) and compared to the same quarter of the previous year (of 34.5%, based on revised 2016 Q1 figures). Part of the reason for this decline is that the Federal Aviation Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) had data for several additional airports, which are not available for the current period. Henceforth, this report will exclude these airports to ensure a consistent comparison.
However, excluding these, and comparing the same airports, the sharp decline remains. Relative to the previous quarter, there were 983,705 fewer passengers, a fall of 28.2%, and relative to the first quarter of 2016 there were 1,165,482 fewer, or 29.4% less.
This was largely due to the closure of Abuja Airport from March 8th. There were 311,261 fewer domestic passengers to travel through Abuja Airport relative to the previous quarter.
However, the effect on the total number will not be limited to a reduction in passengers travelling through Abuja, as each domestic passenger to leave Abuja would have also counted as an arrival at a different domestic airport, and vice versa. Therefore, although all airports saw a reduction in domestic passenger numbers, this is still partly explained by the Abuja Airport closure.
It should also be noted that quarterly declines in the total number of passengers were also recorded in the previous two quarters, and therefore given this trend, it is unlikely that all of the reduction in passenger numbers was due to the closure, as demand for flights was already declining.
This also helps to explain the divergent trends between domestic and international passenger numbers. Relative to the previous quarter, there was a fall of 32.2% in domestic passenger numbers, compared to a fall of 18.2% in international passenger numbers.
Whereas fewer domestic departures from Abuja means fewer domestic arrivals at other airports, the same effect is not present for international passengers. Relative to the first quarter of 2016, there were 31.9% fewer domestic passengers in total, and 23.7% fewer international.
Despite the clear effect of the Abuja Airport closure, there were clearly other factors that led to the quarterly and year on year declines, as evidenced by fewer passengers travelling through most international airports, and some domestic airports recording even sharper declines than Abuja.
Figure 2: Total Number of Passengers, 2016 – 2017 Q1, Domestic and International
Domestic Passenger Traffic
In the first quarter of 2017, there was a quarterly fall in the number of domestic passengers of 32.2%, or 801,013 passengers, and a year on year fall of 31.9% or 789,757, when considering the same set of airports.
As discussed, this was partly caused by the closure of Abuja Airport from 8th March 2017.
There were 311,261 fewer domestic passengers to travel through Abuja relative to the previous quarter, and 321,952 relative to the first quarter of 2016, and this would have caused an equivalent fall across all other airports connected to Abuja. Therefore, over half of the decline can be attributed to the closure.
Murtala Muhammed Airport (MMA) in Lagos remained the busiest domestic airport in the first quarter of 2017, and accounted for 698,165 domestic passengers, or 41.4% of the total. This was a higher share than both the previous quarter, and the first quarter of 2016, in which shares were 36.6% and 35.8% respectively.
Although this airport recorded quarterly and year on year falls of 23.3% and 21.3% respectively, these were less steep than the declines recorded in the total number of domestic passengers.
Despite the closure, Abuja Airport remained the second largest domestic airport, and accounted for 499,149 passengers, or 29.6% of the total. However, Abuja recorded by far the largest declines in domestic passenger numbers in absolute terms, recording a quarterly fall of 311,261 and a year on year fall of 321,952, or 38.4% and 39.2% respectively. Abuja’s share of domestic passengers in the first quarter of 2017 was lower than that in the previous quarter of 32.6%, and in the same quarter of the previous year, of 33.2%.
As in previous quarters, the third busiest domestic airport in 2016 was Port Harcourt, which accounted for 189,843, or 11.3% of the total. This was an increase from shares recorded in the previous quarter (8.4%) and in the same quarter of the previous year (10.2%).
Figure 3: Domestic Passengers by Main Airport, 2016 Q4 and 2017 Q1
International Passenger Traffic
The number of international passengers to travel to and from Nigeria declined, but not as steeply as the number of domestic passengers. There was a quarterly fall of 18.2%, and a year on year fall of 23.7%.
As discussed, the closure of Abuja Airport will have had less of an effect on international passenger numbers than domestic, because in the case of domestic travel, each trip made to or from Abuja has a corresponding effect on another domestic airport. Nevertheless, the decline was also broad-based, with nearly all airports contributing to the decline
As with domestic travel, MMA in Lagos was the airport to account for the largest number of international travelers, with 627,406 passing through in the first quarter of 2017.
However, Lagos dominates international travel far more than domestic; in the first quarter of 2017 Lagos accounted for 76.5% of international passengers, or over three quarters. This was a higher share than in the previous quarter, when it was 71.9%, and when compared to the first quarter of 2016, when the share was 72.1%. In both cases, the increase was largely at the expense of Abuja, as may be expected due to the closure.
Nevertheless, Lagos airport recorded the largest declines in absolute terms, with 93,775 fewer passengers than in the previous quarter, and 146,900 fewer than in the first quarter of 2016. These are equivalent to quarterly and year on year declines of 13.0% and 19.0%.
Abuja airport remained the second busiest international airport in the first quarter of 2017, and accounted for 124,578 passengers, or 15.2% of the total. Even though Abuja airport was shut for a significant amount of time during the quarter, it retained a high share of passenger numbers due to its importance as the capital of Nigeria, and seat of government.
Although some trips may have been cancelled due to the closure, some may have been brought forward into February, limiting the overall impact. Nevertheless, the share of international passengers accounted for by Abuja was lower than the share of 20.0% recorded in the previous quarter and of 20.5% recorded in the previous year.
Kano International Airport remained the third largest in the first quarter of 2017, with 38,501 passengers to pass through, and was one of the only international airports to record a quarterly increase in passenger numbers, of 6,240, or 19.3%.
Year on year however, the number of passengers travelling through Kano International fell by 7,002 passengers, or 15.4%. Kano’s share in the first quarter of 2017 was 4.7%, higher than both that of 3.2% recorded in the previous quarter, and of 4.2% in the same quarter of the previous year.
Figure 4: International Passengers by Main Airport, 2016 Q4 and 2017 Q4
Total Aircraft Movement
In the first quarter of 2017, a total of 41,932 aircrafts arrived at, or departed from Nigerian Airports. As with passenger numbers, data from FAAN were available for several extra airports during 2016, but as data for these airports is not available for the first quarter 2017, growth rates calculated for this period exclude them from the previous totals, to ensure a consistent comparison.
Relative to the previous quarter, there were 13,024 fewer aircrafts to travel through Nigerian airports, a decline of 23.7%. This decline was considerably smaller than the decline in the number of passengers, of 28.2%, indicating that aircrafts carried fewer passengers on average.
Flight companies partly make decisions on how many aircrafts to operate based on anticipated demand for flights; it is possible that the decline in the demand was more substantial than they expected. Most major airports recorded a smaller decline in aircraft numbers than passenger numbers. Year on year, there was also a decline in the number of aircrafts, of 29.9%. This was similar to the decline in the number of passengers, of 29.4% (based on revised 2016 Q1 numbers).
In general, international aircrafts were larger than domestic during the period. In the first quarter of 2017, there were 51 passengers on average on each domestic flight, whereas on each international flight there was an average of 92 passengers.
In each case, this represented a decline in the average number of passengers per aircraft relative to the previous quarter, when the figure was 56 for domestic flights and 97 for international. In the domestic case, this is possibly related to the decline in the share of flights travelling through Abuja, domestic aircraft travelling through Abuja carry more passengers than the average.
Figure 5: Domestic/International Split of Aircraft by Airport, Q1 2017
Domestic Aircraft Movement
The shares of domestic flights accounted for by each airport are similar to the shares of passengers accounted for by each airport, as would be expected. In general, aircrafts departing from and flying to larger airports carry more people. Therefore, the share of aircrafts accounted for airports such as Lagos and Abuja is usually smaller than their share of passengers.
However, during the first quarter of 2017, the opposite was true for Lagos airport; although the share of passengers to travel through Lagos was 41.4%, the share of aircrafts was 42.6%, indicating that the average number of passengers was smaller than the average for the period, at 49, compared to 51.
This was the first quarter since prior to 2014 in which the share of passengers accounted for by Lagos was smaller than the share of aircraft. However, as in previous periods, Abuja airport accounted for a smaller share of aircrafts than passengers; its passenger share was 29.6%, whereas its aircraft share was 25.8%, and there were 59 passengers per aircraft on average.
In the first quarter of 2017, Lagos recorded a quarterly fall of 8.9% in the number of aircrafts to travel through, and a year on year decline of 16.2%. Abuja recorded a quarterly decline of 33.2%, reflecting the airport closure, and a year on year decline of 43.9%. Notably, despite recorded a quarterly fall of 9.3%, Port Harcourt Domestic airport recorded an increase of 16.9% in the number of aircrafts.
International Aircraft Movement
MMA airport in Lagos accounted for a slightly lower share of international aircrafts than of international passengers, in contrast to the domestic airport; its share was 73.9% in the first quarter of 2017, compared to a share of 76.5% for international passengers.
This followed a quarterly decrease in international aircraft movement of 5.6%, compared to a decrease in international passengers of 13.0%. Year on year, the declines in international aircrafts and passengers were 7.8% and 19.2% respectively.
Due to the dominance of Lagos in international travel, owing to the cities status as the commercial capital of Nigeria, and the source of the nearly all foreign investment, movements in total number of international aircraft and passengers travelling through Lagos tend to mirror those in the overall movements.
Abuja was the second largest airport in terms of aircrafts, and accounted for 16.2% in the first quarter of 2017, which was slightly higher than the share of international passengers of 15.2%, in contrast with domestic travel.
Cargo Movement by Airport
In the first quarter of 2017, cargo movement decreased by 24.0% relative to the previous quarter, and by 2.0% relative to the same quarter of the previous year. Consequently, the total volume of cargo movement was 41,457,573 kilograms, compared to 54,515,095 kilograms in the previous quarter and 42,311,777 kilograms in the first quarter of 2016. This was the lowest amount of cargo recorded since prior to 2014.
Figure 6: Weight of Cargo Moved Through Nigerian Airports, 2016 – 2017 Q1, Million KG
As in previous periods, the bulk of weight of cargo to move through Nigerian airports went through MMA airport in Lagos in the first quarter of 2017. Lagos accounted for 90.3%, a higher share than that in the previous quarter of 87.3%, but slightly lower than the share in the first quarter of 2016 of 91.1%. The weight of cargo to move through Lagos in the first quarter of 2017 was 37,443,070 kilograms, 21.4% less than in the previous quarter, and 2.9% less than in the same quarter of the previous year.
In contrast to previous periods, Port Harcourt was the airport to account for the second largest amount of cargo. In the first quarter of 2017, this airport accounted for cargo of weight 2,287,479 kilograms, or 5.5% of the total, after having recorded quarterly growth of 64.5% and year on year growth of 96.6%.
Port Harcourt was the only airport to record growth, and coupled with the decline in cargo to move through Abuja and Kano, this led to these airports falling behind Port Harcourt in terms of cargo movement. Kano was the third largest airport in terms of cargo moved, and accounted for cargo of weight 1,063,000 kilograms, which represented a quarterly fall of 60.3% and a year on year fall of 40.0%.
Abuja accounted for cargo of weight 522,145 kilograms, a fall of 75.7% relative to the previous quarter, and of 36.7% relative to the same quarter of the previous year. Consequently, Kano accounted for 2.6% of the total, and Abuja accounted for 1.3%. After recording a quarterly fall of 79.3%, the largest of any airport (even Abuja), Enugu accounted for only 0.3%.
Post Moved by Airport
The weight of mail to move through Nigerian airports increased sharply, in contrast to cargo movements. In the first quarter of 2017, the weight of mail transported through airports was 6,466,211 kilograms, 62.6% higher than the weight of 3,975,670 kilograms to be moved in the previous period.
In the first quarter of 2016, the weight of mail to be moved through was only 605,572, meaning that year on year there was nearly a tenfold increase, of 967.8%. This was partly a result of a change in focus of airlines, who were faced with a large decrease in demand for passenger travel, as explored in previous sections.
Figure 7: Weight of Post Moved Through Nigerian Airports, 2016 – 2017 Q1, Thousand KG
Lagos was the airport to account for the largest volume of mail in the first quarter of 2017. In addition, it was the airport to explain nearly all the increase relative to the previous year. In the first quarter of 2016, the weight of mail to move through Lagos was 363,228 kilograms, but this rose to 6,139,568 kilograms a year later, a seventeen-fold increase. Relative to the previous quarter, growth was also strong, at 72.9%.
The trend was quite different for Abuja, which was the only other airport in active in moving mail during the period. In the first quarter of 2017, Abuja airport accounted for 326,643 kilograms of mail, a decline of 23.0% relative to the previous quarter. Although this also represented a year on year increase of 37.3%, it was not of the same magnitude as the increase in mail to move through Lagos.
Therefore, Lagos dominated mail movement in the quarter, and accounted for 94.9%. Although Lagos has always accounted for the largest amount of mail movement, this was the highest share yet recorded. Abuja accounted for 5.1%.
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