Nigeria has missed out on the top 10 rankings of the most profitable routes in Africa operated between 2018 and March this year.
According to industry observers, this may not be unconnected with low traffic demand and flight frequencies, lack of tourism destinations, and the absence of dominant carriers on the international front.
Nigeria, with a population of over 200 million people, an airport in almost all 36 States, and opened doors to 34 foreign carriers with multiple frequencies, is often placed next to South Africa in terms of profitability; but, not any longer.
OAG, an international analysis company, shows in a new report that the Emirates and South African routes now dominate the region. The only West African route in the top 10 is Abidjan-Paris and in eighth place.
The report published recently showed that Emirates operates the most profitable routes on the continent, half of which connect South Africa to Europe or Asia.
The Dubai-based carrier was ranked four times among the most profitable route companies, with Johannesburg and Cape Town airports hosting five of the 10 routes.
At the top of this ranking, which covers the period from April 2018 to March 2019, Emirates’ Johannesburg-Dubai line generated $315.6 million. It is ahead of Johannesburg-London, operated by British Airways, with $295 million in revenue, and Cairo-Djeddah, operated by Saudi Arabian Airlines, with $242 million in revenue.
The only line in the top 10 in West Africa is Abidjan-Paris, operated by Air France, which generates $175 million. It ranked eighth, thanks to its many business customers.
According to various analysts, with three daily flights, it may even be among Air France’s most profitable routes.
Aviation analyst and vice-president of the OAG, John Grant, said it would be hard to explain an increase in air route’s profitability, because a lot of factors are involved, though these multiple reasons underscore why a lot of potential African routes are still not up to scratch.
Grant said: “Each company, each line has its own costs and suppliers, who charge different prices. Generally, the most profitable routes have a large proportion of business-class travelers, who will pay a high price, or a large passenger market in tourism class throughout the year.”
According to the analyst, Johannesburg Airport seems to have a combination of these two assets. “This company has a very dense network in Africa and offers connections to other regional areas.
At least 80 per cent of intercontinental traffic linking Africa to other continents is carried by foreign companies. The only intra-African line in the ranking is the one between Cape Town and Johannesburg, operated by South African Airways, with $185 million revenue.
“This is a particularity that represents a challenge for air traffic between African countries. Long-distance flights generate the most revenue, especially those with business class,” Grant said. But on the continent, short and medium-haul flights are in the majority.
This offer from African companies meets the demand of their users but is also conditioned by the regulatory barriers between states in force on the continent.
The Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) project aims to address these barriers of taxes and legislation, in order to facilitate intra-African connections. If the single market does not necessarily push continental interconnections up to the top of the OAG ranking, it will increase competition in the African sky, to the detriment of the smallest companies, some analysts have warned.