TRAVELLERS may have to seek other foreign carriers from New York to Lagos as Delta Air Lines announced a suspension of flights from New York from October 4, 2022.
Yesterday, The ICIR reported that Delta Air Lines had suspended its NewYork-JFK to Lagos flights effective October 4, 2022.
Delta Air Lines exclusively disclosed via a statement that the route suspension was to fit into “the current demand environment.”
The statement stressed that the airline was, however, still operating its Lagos and Atlanta routes.
It read, “Delta is suspending its nonstop service between New York-JFK and Lagos to fit the current demand environment. The airline continues to operate service between Lagos and Atlanta and offers onward connections to New York and other cities across the United States.
“Customers impacted by our suspended New York-JFK to Lagos service will be reaccommodated on Delta operated flights or service operated by our joint venture partners. Delta remains committed to the Nigeria market.”
Aviation experts, who weighed in on the matter, attributed the flight suspension to lack of travel demand, rather than the Central Bank of Nigeria’s inability to allow foreign airlines repatriate their funds, as was the problem with Emirates.
They explained that the route was quite seasonal and, as with the global challenge of shortage of aviation fuel, airlines were only trying to move to a path of profitability by dealing with highly patronized routes.
The president of the National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies (NANTA), Susan Akporiaye, in an interview with The ICIR, said the withdrawal of the route was unconnected to the Emirates issue.
In the Emirates’ instance, the airline had planned to suspend all flights to and from Nigeria, effective 1 September 2022, to limit further losses and impact on its operational costs that were accumulating in the market.
The airline had lamented that $85 million was stuck in the Nigerian system till the CBN released $265m for foreign airlines last week to enable them regain some of their earnings.
Akporiaye said it wasn’t close to the Emirates issue. She stressed that it was a function of demand, as the route is quite seasonal.
She said of the Delta Air Line’s issue, “The NewYork-Lagos flight is not a regular route. It is usually up during summer and goes off at the end of the period. It has been the practice for airlines, so it is not a fixed route. It comes on and off. During low seasons, they don’t sell that route. The airline goes to the route depending on demands. This is not because of the trapped funds.”
She said Delta could decide to bring it back by December when demand for it springs up, and then take it back by January.
An aviation consultant, Olumide Ohunayo, also saw it as an economic decision as the airlines did something similar last year.
Ohunayo said, “This is caused by the low season. They have to adjust their routine, which is not the first time. They did it last year, too, during the winter when they reduced their operations on the Nigerian route. We should give it to them for planning this well.
“With the cost of aviation fuel, one cannot take the risk of having less than 90 per cent load factor. It is more of an economic decision than the issue of trapped funds. The high cost of fuel has affected demand and was key in making this decision.”
The consultant did not, however, see any cause for alarm in the development. Even though he admitted that the stringent visa policy of the United States was a factor for this decision, he said travellers can alternatively fly to Atlanta to connect to Lagos, or fly with partner airlines to Lagos. He noted the implications of this decision would only mean that passengers may no longer fly directly to Lagos.
The president of the Association of Foreign Airlines Representatives in Nigeria (AFARN), Kingsley Nwokoma, said passengers may need to fly other European carriers from New York to Lagos, or make use of Delta’s Atlanta routes.
Further communication with Delta Airline showed that the last service date of the New York-JFK to Lagos flight would be October 6, while the last service flight departing Lagos to New York would be October 7, 2022.