It is the question on the lips on all travel savvy Nigerians – which are the best local airlines in Nigeria for domestic flights? Nigerians are increasingly turning to domestic airlines in Nigeria in order to avoid placing reliance on the poorly maintained road network to move between Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt and other large hubs in Nigeria. We examine some of the best local airlines in Nigeria to see how they stock up.
Arik Air is unquestionably Nigeria’s flagship domestic airline. The airline currently flies to a range of destinations within Nigeria including Abuja, Benin City, Calabar, Port Harcourt, Akure, Asaba, Enubu, Gombe, Ibadan, Ilorin, Jos, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Maiduguri, Owerri, Uyo, Warri and Yola. In addition, Arik Air is the only Nigerian airline that flies to international destinations (London, New York and Johannesburg). What makes Arik Air stand out among the domestic airlines in Nigeria is that it offers a multi-platform application available for iPhone, Blackberry, Android and Windows where you can search and book domestic flights in Nigeria.
Dana Air was voted the “Domestic Airline Operator of the Year 2013” in the Transport Stakeholders’ Excellence Awards and is another good local airline in Nigeria. The award came as something of a surprise as it was announced only a few months after the crash of a Dana Air Flight 992 in June 2012. Following this air crash, Dana Air’s license was suspended for a number of months. However, the license was reinstated in January 2013 and the airline offers flights between the key Nigerian hubs of Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt via its fleet of five McDonnell Douglas MD-83 aircraft. Dana Air also now offers an Android application called FlyDana Mobile. The application allows customers to view flight information in real time and provides an option to pay and book flights on Dana Air using their mobile phones.
Another great local airline in Nigeria is the state-owned company Aero Contractors which offer flights in Nigeria to a range of destinations from Lagos including Abuja, Accra, Benin City, Douala, Enugu, Kaduna, Owerri, Portharcourt, Sohoto, Uyo and Wairi. Aero Contractors provides domestic flights in Nigeria using its fleet of seven Boeing 737-400 aircraft and six Boeing 737-500 aircraft. Like Dana Air, Aero Contractors has also suffered from difficulties in recent time when in March 2013 industrial action forced Aero Contractors to ground flights for 18 days in a dispute over reduction to staff numbers.
Discovery Air is the new kid on the block in Nigerian air travel. However, the airline has taken the wooden spoon in our list of Nigerian airlines. Why is this you make ask? Well, quite simply, Discovery Air isn’t an option for domestic air travel in Nigeria at the time of writing because its license was suspended by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority in January 2015 due to concerns over security. When Discovery Air was operational, it operated flights from its hub at Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos to Port Harcourt and Abuja using Boeing 737 aircraft (both the 300 and 500 series) and offered both economy class and business class seating.
Despite the increasing demand for local airlines in Nigeria, air ticket prices remain stubbornly high. As a general rule, flights range in price between 8000N and 14,000N (around 40 – 70 USD) but you should check the airline websites for up to date air fares. The reason for high air fares is both due to high fuel costs and also a lack of domestic airlines above and beyond those mentioned above.
In a January 2014 report, the World Bank recommended that Nigeria would need 25 local airlines in order to sufficiently address demand and keep air tickets at an affordable level. Perhaps the gap will be filled by Africa’s low cost airline fastjet which is already operating flights across many of Africa’s major cities including Johannesburg, Dar es Salaam, Lusaka and Entebbe. In June 2013, fastjet entered into an MOU with Nigeria’s Red 1 Airways to create a fastjet branded airline in Nigeria but a launch date has still not been released for fastjet in Nigeria. For Nigerian travellers eagerly awaiting fast jet’s arrival into the Nigerian market, it remains very much a case of watch this space.
Did you know? A total of 13.9 million travellers passed through Nigerian airports during 2013 according to figures from the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN).