This is not the best of times for air passengers in Nigeria as domestic airlines have hiked their fares by about 100 per cent, with a one-way economy ticket selling for over N50,000.
This is coming barely 24 hours after airline operators issued a statement detailing the operational challenges responsible for flight delays and cancellations.
Among the challenges listed by the operators under the aegis of Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) were unavailability and the ever-rising cost of aviation fuel (Jet A1); unavailability of forex for spare parts and maintenance; delays from customs in the clearing of safety-critical spare parts; poor air traffic flow and inadequate check-in counters.
The AON had said, “Jet A1 today costs above N410 in Lagos, N422 in Abuja and Port Harcourt, and N429 in Kano per litre and has continued to rise fast and steadily. On top of the continuous rise in the fuel price, fuel supply is at best epileptic at several airports thereby causing delays.”
24 hours after, the airlines across board jacked up their fares, with a one-way economy base fare selling for N50,000.
By implication, the busiest Lagos-Abuja route now goes for N100,000 return. It was less than N55,000 a week ago, and on the same flight, there are fears that passengers may pay as much as N80,000 to N100,000 for a one-way economy seat if they are booking on the day of travel.
A random check on the websites of major airlines shows that the economy ticket costs between N50,200 and N53,000 for a Lagos-Abuja trip 72 hours before the travel date.
Lagos-Abuja; Lagos-Port Harcourt; Lagos-Benin; Lagos-Enugu, as well as Abuja-Port Harcourt; Abuja-Kano and Lagos-Ilorin, on Air Peace is N50,000 as a base fare. Lagos-Abuja on Arik Air is between N50,250 and N54, 750.
Also, Dana Air’s Lagos-Abuja one-way ticket costs between N50,000 and N54,000; also Port Harcourt-Lagos on Dana costs N50,000 to N58,000.
Abuja-Kano on Max Air is N50,000 one-way as the base economy fare, Ibom Air for Lagos-Abuja was sold for N80,000 as of yesterday, while its base economy fare was N53,000.
However, the airline owned by the Akwa Ibom State Government has retained its fare for Lagos-Uyo or Abuja-Uyo to between N28,000 and N33,000 ostensibly to encourage more people to come to the state.
Also, Abuja-Bayelsa on Ibom Air goes for the same N50,000 as base fare.
The development has cost air passengers groaning, describing the hike as too exorbitant and seeking a downward review.
A passenger, Niyi Odutayo, said he booked N52,000 on Arik Abuja-Lagos flight on Saturday, disclosing that he booked the same ticket three days ago for N27,000, and said, “It is damn too exorbitant.”
Other passengers lamented that they should have booked earlier if they had prior knowledge of the fare hike.
Daily Trust learnt that AON met last week where a decision was reached to effect the fare hike while all members agreed to the proposal.
A member of AON who spoke with our correspondent yesterday blamed the development on the high cost of aviation fuel, foreign exchange and the general inflationary trend in the country.
A member of AON, Barr Shehu Wada, said, “Airlines are seriously bleeding. We are just like cashiers. People see us collecting money but at the end of the day, everything goes out. We buy fuel for N400 plus, how do we break even? The bitter truth is when you have other means of income, you will be losing that to sustain another one.”
Commenting on the development, aviation analyst, Mr Olumide Ohunayo, said the increase was justified going by the hike in price of Jet A1 and foreign exchange side.
He, however, said the hike would affect other sectors like tourism, noting that people would only travel when it became extremely important for business.
He further said, “If N50,000 is the base fare, you can be sure that on that same flight, you might still get passengers paying as much as N90,000 as for economy if they want to travel that day or they come to the airport on the day of travel.”
The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) was yet to comment on the development as at the time of filing bthis report.
We were not informed of hike in air fares, says NCAA
The Director-General of the NCAA, Capt. Musa Nuhu in a chat with Daily Trust said although air fares have long been deregulated and determined by market forces, each airline was required to file the new air fares and the reasons for the increase to the agency.
He said he was not aware if the appropriate department had been notified.
He said, “It is an individual airline, not as a group that can make that decision. You cannot make that decision as AON, that’s anti-competition but each airline on its own can adjust the air fare but they must file with NCAA the reason for the increase in air fares before it comes into effect.”
Asked the next step to be taken by the NCAA, he said, “As I said the air fares are deregulated. We do not regulate air fares.”
He, however, added that the agency would check some of the reasons given to see if the increase is reasonable.