South African Airways on Tuesday said it had flown over 3.2 million passengers between Lagos and Johannesburg in the last 20 years, Group Chief Executive, Vuyani Jarana, has said.
Speaking in Lagos at an event commemorating 20 years of the airline’s operation in Nigeria, Jarana said SAA launched its first flight into Lagos on December 4, 1998.
He said: “Within the space of 20 years, we have flown over 3.2 million passengers; it is indeed a great feat to achieve considering the challenges we face.
Jarana said SAA commenced flights into Nigeria following the signing of Bilateral Air Service Agreement between the two countries.
He said: “It has been 20 years of safe flights and seamless connection.
“SAA has since brought several aircraft onto this route, from the initial Airbus 300 series, which had to make a technical stop en-route in Luanda to the Boeing 767 and the B747-400 and to the Airbus A340–600, which was then replaced by the current state of the art Airbus A330-300 aircraft.
“SAA is consistently delivering exceptional turnaround times and excellent facilities, unfolding state-of-the-art on-demand inflight entertainment system, increased economy, business class space and legroom for extra comfort.”
The airline executive, however, identified multiple taxation, cumbersome visa procurement process and expensive aviation fuel as some of the challenges the airline was facing in Nigeria.
He described as pathetic a situation where aviation fuel was more expensive in oil producing countries than non-oil producing countries.
He said: “Assuming we have less expensive aviation fuel, seamless visa procurement process and a harmonised taxation system, airline business in Nigeria would have been a more profitable venture.
“We are working on solving most of the problems we are facing, we are speaking with government officials and other persons who can help.
“When these problems are solved, there will be improvement in the tourism and economic sectors of the two countries.”
Javana said that SAA had projected to recover from its current financial crisis within three years.
Earlier, Aaron Munetsi, SAA Regional Manager for West Africa, said that the airline had helped in developing tourism in both countries over the last 20 years.
Munetsi said that there was need for government to improve on aviation infrastructure at the nation’s airports.
Pumla Luhabe, SAA General Manager (Commercial), said that SAA’s Johannesburg – Lagos route ranked amongst the airline’s most profitable.
He said: “We want to continue to support this important destination by continuously improving the overall customer experience and exploring new opportunities.
“This will enable us to retain our market position as the carrier of choice amongst the Nigerian travelling community.”
He said that SAA deployed the A330-300 aircraft to its Lagos – Johannesburg route in response to the needs of the profiles of its business and economy class passengers.