June 10, 2024

Airfares: Prices skyrocket, distort travel plans, passengers lament, seek alternatives

air traffic

By Dickson Omobola

Less than one week to Eid-el-kabir, there is a sharp increase in the cost of airfares, leaving air travellers worried.

Apart from the worries, the situation, which cuts across all airlines, has also distorted the travelling schedule of many.

Industry experts fingered the suspension of Dana Air’s operations by the Minister of Aviation and Aerospace Development, Mr Festus Keyamo, forex cost to maintain and return aircraft from checks as some factors that might have contributed to the rise of ticket prices.

Findings also showed that passengers formerly loyal to Dana Air had begun flying other airlines, leading to more demand for their services and diminishing supply in airlines’ operations.

Already, the steady increases in airfares, as witnessed in recent years, has put air transportation beyond the reach of an average Nigerian, who would rather find less expensive but risky alternatives.

In recent times, the hike has generated unease and endless questions among the country’s residents. In fact, stakeholders have been on the edge over the failure to find a permanent solution to the development.

Checks by Vanguard revealed that for Air Peace, outbound and inbound one-way tickets from Lagos to Abuja which sold for between N85,800 and N238,200 now range from N105,000 to N238,200. Similarly, a ticket from Lagos to Asaba in the economy flexible category costs N105,000 and N238,300 for the business domestic category.

For those who intend to travel from Lagos to Kano between June 11 and June 25 via the airline, an economy flexible outbound one-way ticket goes for at least N100,300, while a business domestic outbound ticket can go up to N190,600.

The return journey from Kano to Lagos in the economy flexible category now costs travellers not less than N100,300.

From Lagos to Warri during the same period. an economy flexible outbound one-way ticket costs between N105,100 and N114,500, while the economy flexible inbound ticket ranges between N190,700 to N238,300.

For those who desire to fly with Ibom Air from Lagos to Abuja between June 11 and June 25 on a one-way outbound ticket, Ibom discount costs between N105,100 and N124,100, while Diamond goes from N238,400 to N286,000.

A one-way outbound ticket flights from Lagos to Port Harcourt on Ibom Air between the said period also costs between N114,600 and N133,700, just as Gold costs not less than N190,800.

AON reacts

Shedding light on the issue, spokesperson of  Airline Operators of Nigeria, AON, Professor Obiora Okonkwo, wondered why tickets should be sold at a cheaper price, saying the cost of operating an airline had skyrocketed.

Okonkwo, who said any airline selling tickets for less than N150,000 was losing money, stressed that considering the price of jet fuel, otherwise known as Jet A1, and charges incurred by carriers, it was difficult to do business without increasing airfares.

He said: “The question that should be asked is why are the operators selling tickets at a lower price in spite of the charges, taxes, cost of aviation fuel. What is the increase there? I have frequently said that any ticket that is bought for less than N150,000, the airline is losing money. A return ticket for Lagos to Abuja should not be less than N300,000.”

Expert comment

Sharing his thoughts on the development, an aviation expert, Mr Obi Mbanuzo, said the main determinant of airfares and their level was demand and supply.

He said: “You might have noticed that with the grounding of Dana, quite a lot of capacity has been removed from the system. In addition, I am aware that some airlines currently have aircraft out on heavy maintenance; so, if we have reduced capacity and demand remains the same, fares will rise.”

According to him, Dana had between 15 and 20 per cent capacity share on Lagos to Abuja, about 30 per cent on Lagos to Owerri.

“Although its removal may not be felt in other markets, it will be felt in those particular markets,” he added.

Mbanuzo stated that in the case of jet fuel, the price was affected by the exchange rate.

He said: “Since we either import it or from what I understand, Dangote refinery sells in forex (maybe they collect Naira at prevailing rate). So yes, the cost of jet fuel is another component. Capacity plays a role and Jet A1 price fluctuates with the exchange rate. It is possibly true that the fares should be higher, but can the market bear it? At some point, an equilibrium will be reached, which is the current level.”