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Electronic Booking/Payment Channels in the Nigerian Aviation Sector
Tuesday, December 6th, 2011

The Aero Story

Picture a scenario where a Lagos resident at his home in Victoria Island on calm Saturday morning suddenly receives a call informing him that he had to be in Abuja (the administrative capital) by mid afternoon. Abuja is an eight-hour drive from Lagos. The first decision you have to make is the easiest. Your logical choice for mode of transport will be air. You will then be faced with the choice of which airline to fly with. Traditionally, you would head for the airport and then scout around for the available flights that suits your time, and if you have options and you are price sensitive, you will go for the least expensive. That’s one possibility. You can also get in touch with a travel agent, though this may not be ideal for last minute purchases. Today however, options for accessing information, making bookings and payments have opened up globally. Nigeria has also braced up to the challenge and by default today, most airlines offers a variety of options for booking and paying for a seat on a flight.

Today, the same Victoria Island resident can send an SMS on his mobile phone to retrieve an airline’s schedule and fares, and also make a booking on the phone as well! He/She can go on to pay for the booking on the phone and check in online. In effect, he has reduced the need for human intervention up till boarding (if travelling with hand luggage only and has no baggage to check in). There are still several options n Nigerian passenger has in his path to securing an airline seat. He can book on his PC, pay on an ATM machine and check in on his PC or phone. If he has excess baggage, he can pre-pay for this on the airline’s website. Another set of options available to him would be to call the call centre, get a booking reservation, pay at a designated bank and check in/pay for excess baggage online.

These booking/payment options are revolutionary in Sub Saharan Africa. Looking at the Nigeria aviation industry, this is even more so. In spite of her status in Africa, Nigeria is beset by very formidable infrastructural issues, especially with regards to power and telecommunications. This in effect will mean that basic telecom services will cost more than in other sub-Saharan countries, ostensibly due to the additional cost of running backup supply. Regardless, The Nigerian economy still seems to provide opportunities for innovation, though not with considerable effort.

Aero contractors Company of Nigeria Limited without doubt is a pioneer in this aspect of business endeavour, as its initiatives have been copied by other airlines in the Nigerian aviation sector. The airline arguable offers the most robust distribution and payment system when ranked with other Nigerian domestic airline service providers.

Checking for flight Schedules

Passengers can always check for flight schedules by visiting www.flyaero.com or calling the Call center

If you have no internet connection, you may also check for flight schedules by sending an SMS on any Nigerian network. Aero is the first West African airline to launch such initiative. You can send one SMS to the shortcode 32123 (on Nigerian networks) to access the schedule, times and fares. To view the schedule for the Lagos-Abuja flights for the 30th of November, the SMS to send to 32120 will be
Aero Lagos Abuja 30 November
This returns a numbered list of flights with times and fares.
To book for the second flight on the list you need to send this text to the same code
Aero 2 Firstname Lastname

Booking for Flights

The most popular booking channel is also the website www.flyaero.com. Booking can also be done by SMS as illustrated earlier. The Call center is also a useful channel. Designated Kiosks also provide the convenience.
The booking process gives you a unique reservations reference which captures your booking information.

Payments

There are several payment options available. The major challenge in Nigeria once again is infrastructure; with stable electricity supply not yet a reality. This is a formidable obstacle, making connectivity and e-payments challenging. Regardless, there are still several e-payment options available. These include debit card payment on the web (using Visa/Master Cards), payments at designated Nigerian banks (as the banking applications can connect to the reservation system), and payments on ATM machines, Kiosks and lately mobile money.

In Nigeria, Aero has remained the most innovative of the pack in terms of product distribution. Part of the core of the business model is empowering the passenger to be able to do everything form booking to payment to check-in themselves. The objective is making the booking and payment process so easy that Aero will be the most sensible rational option in the Nigerian airline industry.

The booking and payment process is of course only one aspect of the value chain. Without doubt though, it is a key factor in deciding which airline to fly, as our Victoria Island Lagos resident will confirm to you.

Segun Medubi oversees the commercial department at Aero Contractors Nigeria Limited.