New Telegraph

Omicron: Mixed fortunes for business jet owners amid UK travel ban

• Our business boomed between Saturday and Tuesday deadline –Operator

• COVID-19 adversely affecting aviation industry –Source


Business jet owners in the country have expressed mixed feelings over the travel ban imposed on Nigeria by the United Kingdom government.


Sunday Telegraph gathered that before the ban came into effect on the morning of Tuesday, December 7, many of the business jet owners had a boom, once the ban was announced on Saturday, ferrying prominent Nigerians who wanted to beat the deadline to the UK.


A luxury jet operator, who spoke to Sunday Telegraph on strict condition of anonymity said luxury jets operators witnessed a massive boom in operations following the plan by the United Kingdom to bar Nigeria or put the country on the red list from December 6, 2021.


The source said many affluent Nigerians, who wanted to beat the December 6 deadline to avoid the 10-day quarantine in government facilities engaged the services of chartered jet operators even when the fares were as high as $8, 000 per hour.


The source said that the average cost to charter a jet from Lagos to London was $8,000 per hour. The cost could go as high as $117,200, inclusive of a $3,000 landing fee, an executive handling charge of $1,700, $500 passenger handling charges for five passengers.


A businessman disclosed that many of the wealthy Nigerians were ready to pay as high as $200,000 for the services, stressing that demand for “our services last week outstripped supply” There were indications that many jet owners hid under the guise of private jet ownership to put their aircraft into commercial operations, which the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has consistently frowned at.


Meanwhile, there has been a lull in the operation of luxury jets as UK’s ban on Nigerians took effect as only those with British passports or resident permits are allowed to travel to the UK. COVID-19 pandemic has equally seen the sharp reduction in the number of private jets in the country to just 46 from 200 before now.


Sunday Telegraph’s investigation showed that there are many private jets lying idle on many of the airports’ tarmac across the country as COVID-19 fear and possible ban by Europe and many of other nations have seen many wealthy Nigerians stay in the country.


“We are currently experiencing exceptionally strong demand, with the appetite for personal travel not yet stated after a later start to summer due to restrictions, and now business flying is also taking off alongside.” A private jet operator, Yemi said the sub-sector has lost between $1-5 billion to $5 billion to the pandemic, which silenced the erstwhile luxury market.


He said the pandemic period has been the most challenging for operators as the sector suffered revenue loss, a decline in flight requests, and fixed overhead running. In another twist, a jet owner who preferred anonymity disclosed that it was initially tough for the operators when COVID-19 set in last year, adding that Private jet providers are experiencing “unprecedented demand” from wealthy customers seeking to avoid the “mosh pit” of commercial flights on autumn getaways as Coronavirus travel restrictions ease.


A company that supplies private jets to rich families and business executives said they were “experiencing exceptionally strong demand” for September and October travel at a time of year when bookings normally fall away.


She said business destinations such as Paris, Zurich, Munich, and Amsterdam had climbed back into the top 10 list of European destinations, which were previously dominated by holiday hotspots.


Amid global outrage that trailed the ban by some African countries in the face of the detection of the Omicron variant of the COVID-19, there are indications that the UK might decide to relax the travel ban placed on some African nations like Nigeria, South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Namibia, Malawi, and Mozambique on December 2021, when the ban is expected to be reviewed.


The ban on these countries could also have a serious economic impact on their aviation sector. The continent’s umbrella body for airlines, African Airlines Association (AFRAA) predicted that the future of African carriers looks bleak no thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic which is exacerbated by the Omicron variant.


The umbrella body for African airlines’, the African Airlines Association (AFRAA) has forecast a full-year loss in revenue of $8.5billion for airlines all over the continent. It said in a statement that African airlines cumulatively lost $10.21billion in revenues due to the impact of the pandemic, representing 58.8 per cent of 2019 revenues.


The report titled, ‘African airlines’ performance updates by AFRAA – November 2021’ stated that Africa’s poor performance could affect the survival of the aviation industry across the continent.


It states: “Across the African continent in general, passenger traffic volumes continued to be low due to the inconsistencies in the messaging regarding border closures, health protocols and continued surge in COVID-19 infections in some countries, and recently the concern about omicron identified as a potentially more transmissible coronavirus variant.”

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