Travelling around Nigeria has never been a simple task, but since the tragic crash of a Dana Air flight back in June, it has got more complicated and more expensive.

Two major airlines, Dana and Air Nigeria, are no longer operating on domestic routes – the reason for the former is obvious, but the latter is more murky, with all sorts of tales bandied about.  The bottom line is they ain’t flying!  That leaves two main carriers, Arik and AeroContractors, trying to fill the gap, and struggling to do so.  Delays are so normal that, when I check in, for a flight, I don’t ask “is it on time”, instead “how long is the delay?”.  You might leave on time first flight of the day, but never is the last flight on schedule – ever been delayed 6 hours for a 45 minute flight?  I have.  Ever ben told that the delay would be short?  I have – same flight!

One problem is that the airlines don’t have enough aircraft, and whilst we welcome the opening of new airports such as Uyo (Akwa Ibom State) and Asaba (Delta State), the airlines are overstretched in their attempts to cover all the route permutations.

Airlines in Nigeria come and go – there’s a whole list of “has-beens” such as ADC, Sosoliso, Okada and Oriental.  Dana was a relatively new entrant to the market, and recently we have seen First Nation come – and go, they ceased flying at the same time as the Dana tragedy.  IRS and Chanchangi operate on a few of the main routes, but of all the carriers I tend to favour AeroContractors, despite the move to “buy your coffee” on board.  And their fares are more reasonable, especially if you book ahead.  But most important – their 100% safety record.

For us weary travellers, there’s very little to be done about the lack of flights and rubbish service.  Transport long distance by roads is fraught with problems, including some of the most appalling “highways” you can imagine, leading to accidents a-plenty.  The quality of driving doesn’t help, either.

It’s a big country, Nigeria, and we need better transportation.  Some of the roads are being rebuilt, but experience says that unless they’re using one of the big civil contractors to do the work, they won’t last for long.  The economy needs better transportation – what’s the point of growing tomatoes if you can’t get them to market?  For now we have to grin and bear it, and pray for government to do something about it – or allow the private sector to do so.  Full marks to the Lekki Concession Company for what they have done in Lagos, constructing a proper road, to ease the congestion in Victoria Island

Trevor Ward

W Hospitality Group, Lagos           

trevor.ward@w-hospitalitygroup.com