By Jimoh Babatunde & Daniel Eteghe
Air travel in Nigeria is gradually being taken away from the reach of the middle class as the airline operators in the country have increased the cost of air tickets to various destinations in the country hiding under the guise of the increase in Passenger Service Charge (PSC) introduced by the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and the Bi-Courtney Aviation Services Limited, operators of the Murtala Mohammed Airport Terminal 2(MMA2) recently.
Bi-Courtney Aviation Service attributed the increase in its PSC to the high cost of running the domestic terminal building. The charge was increased from N1,000 to N2,500 per passenger ticket while FAAN increased its charges from N350 to N1,000.
Chief Operations Officer of Bi-Courtney, Mr. Femi Kolawole stated that the company had obtained approval from the various authorities at the airport to charge US$15 and N650, a total of N3,000 per ticket since December 22, 2006.
According to him, ”the Passenger Service Charge is utilised by the terminal operators, Bi-Courtney Aviation Services Limited to maintain the operations of the terminal building.”
Mr. Kolawole further noted that the company took a cue to increase the PSC from the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria who had earlier increased the PSC by 186% across all the airports in the country in the last two weeks.
“The increase proposed by Bi-Courtney Aviation Limited represents a 150% increase from the current rate of N1,000 per ticket,” he added.
With the increase in the PSC by the two airport managers, the local airlines took it upon themselves to increase their airfare based on this as well as the high cost and scarcity of aviation fuel, otherwise known as JET A1.
Since Monday when the new fare of Bi-Courtney Aviation Services took effect, passengers have been groaning under the high cost of airfares by the various airlines.
Vanguard gathered that for Dana Air whose fare from Lagos to Abuja was formerly N22,400 is now N25,900. But these fares are on the face value as the ticketing officers change the fare arbitrarily.
A passenger who bought a ticket from Dana on Wednesday for a trip to Abuja on Thursday was told the fare was N27, 000 only for him to get there and was told the fare was N29, 700 because of what they termed unavailability of seats.
This case is one of the experiences passengers have been subjected to by airline ticketing officers as they now charge different fares as it suits them.
On the return of the said passenger from Abuja to Lagos on Thursday, he had the same experience as the various airlines increased their fares. Dana Airline charged almost N30,000; IRS charged N28, 800 and Air Nigeria charged N31, 600.
The breakdown of the IRS fare was N16,181.82 with VAT of N809.09; Terminal Service Charge N809.09; Passenger Service Charge N1000; Fuel Charge N9,350.00; Insurance Tax N250.00 and Booking fee of N100.
Mr. Saheed Jimoh, who was on his way to Owerri from Lagos on Aero Contractors Airline, noted that he was surprised that despite the increase in the airfare, he was also asked to pay an additional charge called Airport Service Charge (ASC).
According to him, ”After paying for my ticket from Lagos to Owerri which cost N25,400, I was asked to pay an additional charge that the airline official called Airport Service Charge(ASC) of N2,500.
“They have jacked up the airfare, this is a ploy to empty our pockets. In a country where a lot of people are still crying for the payment of N18, 000 minimum wage, yet they are taking too much from us by increasing the price of getting a ticket to such exorbitant amounts,” he lamented.