As the world gears up for the Yuletide season, Air passengers in the country may find it extremely difficult to travel to their destinations to celebrate with their loved ones, following the astronomical increase in fares in the past few days.
The domestic routes which are mainly one hour flight and operated by indigenous airlines will have its fares hit N300, 000 with the trend of events in the aviation sector.
Already, most domestic airlines in the past six months went for the acquisition of jumbo aircraft either by wet lease, dry lease or outright purchase in anticipation of the Yuletide season.
Some airlines have also announced additional frequencies to their routes after the acquisition of more aircraft.
Promotional fares, rebate tickets, complementary tickets among others have been suspended by all the domestic airlines.
Chevks by The Daily Times, showed that booking website of some domestic airlines, revealed that airfare from Kano to Lagos which before now cost N60, 000 now goes as high as N105,000 for one way trip
Again, future bookings as seen on some of the airlines’ websites, indicated that an hour trip between Lagos and Owerri from 18th to 23rd December will cost between N220, 000 and N300,000 for one way trip, while same date, from Lagos to Uyo will attract Air fares of between N138, 000 and N253,000 on the economy class
There are also fears that a return ticket on any Nigerian route may hit N500,000 and above as the festive season approaches.
An industry stakeholder, however, said the recent new guidelines issued by the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) on wet-leased aircraft may further lead to increased airfares from the airlines as capacity would reduce on the local scene.
Also, some routes like Abuja, Asaba, Kaduna, Kano, Uyo, Enugu, Port Harcourt, Uyo and Calabar oscillate between N220,000 to N280,000 and more for a return ticket, depending on the time of booking for economy class tickets.
The high fares in the local market have, however, drawn condemnation from the flying public and some aviation experts, who declared that the airlines are exploiting the travelling public.
Reacting to the development Mr Olumide Ohunayo, the General Secretary, Aviation Round Table (ART), said that the fares are not static.
Ohunayo also explained that the current season may be responsible for the high fares, warning that it may go as high as N400,000 return ticket for economy class on some of the routes.
He, however assured that the airfares would drop by mid-January next year.
Ohunayo explained that the recent stringent measures put in place by NCAA on wet-leased equipment may create more bottlenecks for the travelling public as capacity reduces.
He said: “It depends on when you want to travel. On that same flight where you had N300,000 return ticket, someone else might be N100,000 to N150,000 and that is the rule of the game. Also, we are in the festive season and because of the problems Nigerian travellers are having at the Lagos international airport, we now have so many people coming into the country through Abuja for instance.
“Such travelers would still be travelling down to Lagos and any other airports within the country for their end of the year activities. Before now, the problem has always been between Lagos and some parts of the southern areas in the country, but due to several reasons, the distributions have changed.
“Also, now that we have put in more stringent measures on the use of wet-leased aircraft for the operators, we have taken capacity away. The airfares will go up more at this period and a return ticket may rise as high as N400,000.”
He, however, dismissed the notion that some of the airlines may price themselves out of the market due to the current charges, maintaining demand dictates the price.
To address the challenges, he called for change in the regulation that would support competition and boost capacity.
He also observed that the current situation may compelled some of the air travelers to jettison air travels for other modes of transport, especially road.
“However, some passengers will still fly mandatorily because of the security situation in the country. We should try as much as possible that in all we do we have the balancing so that when the chips are down those passengers can still come back to us,” he said.
Capt. Ado Sanusi, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Aero Contractors, said some of the fares were exploitative. “I believe that there are some prices that are exploitative. I believe so, especially on the monopoly routes. The eastern routes are somehow monopolised and come with exploitative prices”
According to Sanusi, some airfares in select routes are exploitative, mentioning the South east and South south routes as some of the routes the airlines are exploiting the travelling public.
In a bid to address the challenges, Sanusi proposed increased capacity and canvassed for additional airlines to join the existing operators.
But, observed that the new regulation by the NCAA, which limited start-up airlines to a minimum of six aircraft may further compound the present challenge and allow for more explorations by the existing carriers as the yuletide draws nearer.
“It’s the capacity. If we have more airlines coming into the country and the NCAA allows more airlines to fly, then it will bring the price down. The more airlines we have flying, the more competitive it becomes and the more the prices will go down, but inasmuch as we make regulations that are so hostile to start-up airlines, then, the prices will always go up.”
Sanusi also blamed the situation on foreign exchange challenges, high price of aviation fuel and others as some of the factors responsible for the high airfares, but warned against the airlines pricing themselves out of the market.
He explained that Aero Contractors, unlike some of the airlines, deliberately decided not to charge exorbitant airfares on the routes it operates into and ensure comfort for the travelling public.
“We reflect what is in the economy of the country. We don’t intend to use the festive season to exploit our passengers.
“What we intend to do on the other hand is to make it so affordable so that loved ones can meet each other for Christmas and new year,” he said.