Nigeria has been ranked number one in Africa in the number of visa requests approved by the US Foreign Affairs Department.
According to a document made available to THISDAY, Nigeria was also ranked number four in the world in the number of visas issued by the US in 2015.
Out of 2,738,528 visas issued to non-immigrant visa applicants from 40 countries in the world, India ranked number one with 991,804 visas; Philippines was ranked second with 235,221; with Russia coming third with 164,053 and Nigeria came fourth with 162,429.
According to industry insiders, the number of Nigerians that obtained US visas in one year shows that despite the fact that Nigeria is experiencing economic downturn, the passenger traffic to international destinations is still growing and would continue on the upward swing after the country has turned the corner from its present economic challenges.
About two months ago United Airlines stopped its operations to Nigeria, citing forex challenges and leaving 1,750 seats, which have been snapped by Delta Air Lines, Arik Air and other European carriers.
Industry analyst told THISDAY that the granted visa requests to Nigerian applicants by the US shows that there is greater opportunity in the US-Nigerian air market.
“There is still a niche in the US market but what airlines need to do is to get the right aircraft and operate low cost service to New York or any other US destination.
Nigerian airlines should look for good alliance for code-share that will up their passenger patronage with the right mix and the right competences,” the source said.
THISDAY learnt that since the departure of United Airlines many airlines like Delta Air Lines, British Airways, Lufthansa, KLM and Arik Air have increased their load factor to US destinations.
In fact, an Arik Air source told THISDAY that the airline’s New York destination has significantly improved its load factor despite the general increase in airfares, especially as the airline sells its tickets in Naira.