Nigeria Signs Bilateral Aviation Agreement With India

Nigeria has ratified a bilateral aviation agreement with India this week, strengthening aviation ties between the two countries. The agreement comes weeks after Nigeria was added to India’s travel bubble list, allowing both countries airlines to restart flights. So are flights between India and Nigeria imminent? Who would fly this route?

Air Peace
Air Peace has long had plans to be the first Nigerian carrier to start flights to India. Photo: Anna Zvereva via Wikimedia Commons

Ramping up

This week, Nigeria’s Aviation Minister, Hadi Sirika, announced that the country has officially ratified Bilateral Air Service Agreements (BASA) with India, the US, Morocco, and Rwanda. Most agreements had been signed in the last few years and were pending ratification from both sides.

An Air Transport Agreement, also know as BASA, is a formal agreement that allows airlines in the respective countries to start international flights between the signatories. Ratifying these agreements signals that a country is hoping to increase its aviation footprint by allowing in foreign carriers and boosting domestic ones.

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Arik Air London
Air Travel Agreements also lay out how many flights airlines can fly between the countries. Photo: Biggerben via Wikimedia Commons

Currently, there are no airlines flying direct routes from Nigeria to India. However, there have been a number of repatriation flights this year between the two. So which airlines could start direct flights?

Which airlines could start flights?

Nigeria is home to a substantial Indian expatriate population, and India sees thousands of yearly visitors from Nigeria. However, the lack of direct flights has meant passengers fly mostly with Middle East carriers.

Air Peace was set to be the first carrier to connect the two countries, with plans for a Mumbai-Lagos service in March. However, this year’s crisis means that such plans have been shelved for now. Now, Nigeria’s inclusion in India’s travel bubble and the BASA means Air Peace will have fewer regulatory hurdles when it does start flights.

Air Peace
Air Peace planned to deploy its 777s on routes to India starting March. Photo: Anna Zvereva via Wikimedia Commons

Popular routes from Delhi and Mumbai to Lagos are over 4,100 nautical miles, putting them out of the range of the current generation of narrowbody aircraft. This means that, from India, only Vistara and Air India, the only airlines with widebodies, could start flights to Nigeria. Neither airline has signaled intentions of doing so soon.

It’s most likely that Air Peace will be the first to start flights to India. However, the timing remains up in the air due to the current crisis.

International flights struggle

Both Nigeria and India have restrictions on international flights. While the former only opened its airspace last month, the latter has only allowed a few dozen airlines to restart flights. In such an environment, it’s unlikely that airlines are looking to launch new international flights until demand picks up once again.

Delhi Airport Air India
India has banned all scheduled international flights, only allowing airlines from a handful of travel bubble countries. Photo: Getty Images

The new agreement between the countries does signal that we could see new routes in the near future. This would be a huge boost for travelers, who must take long connections and airlines alike.