Passengers bemoan 100 % air fare hike by domestic airlines

Air passengers have continued to bemoan the recent 100 per cent hike in air fares by domestic airlines in the country.

A cross section of the passengers, who spoke with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in separate interviews, decried the hike in the air fares in the past four week.

In Lagos, passengers called on the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC), to intervene to bring down the air fares.

They said that most of the domestic airlines had pegged their minimum fares at N50,000, from an average of N22,000.

They urged FCCPC to unravel the reasons for the sudden hike in airfares by all domestic carriers.

A NAN checks at the booking counters of some airlines in Lagos, showed that Lagos-Abuja, one-way economy flight sells for between N62,350 and N92,000, depending on airlines, while return tickets sells for between N115,000 and N170,000.

Flight booked in advance range from N50,250 to N60,450 for economy class on one-way.

Lagos-Kano flights also go for between N81,701 and N98,000 per seat.

Lagos-Port Harcourt route sells for N50,950, while advance booking flight goes for N55,751 per traveller.

The minimum ticket price for a three-week booking on Air Peace, Ibom Air, Max Air, Azman air and others have been pegged at N50,000 flat rate, showing about 115 per cent increase from N23,300 minimum rate.

A passenger, Mr David Solomon, appealed to the relevant authorities to intervene on the sudden increase in tickets price.

Solomon, who said that the new tariffs would have adverse effects on Nigerians traveling by air as most Nigerians would choose to go by road.

“How can I pay such an amount from Lagos to Benin? How can I pay double of what I used to pay?’’

Another passenger, Mrs Gladys Stevenson, said that the hike had made majority of Nigerians to resolve to go by road to Abuja on hearing the new fares.

Stevenson said: “I used to secure tickets on United Nigeria Airline to Abuja for just N46,000.

“I almost took to my heels, as l was asked to pay N86,500 for the same flight ticket.”

However, some aviation stakeholders have aligned with the ongoing increase, as air tariff had been deregulated for so long.

Retired Group Capt. John Ojikutu, former Commandant of the Lagos Airport and aviation security consultant, reckoned that airlines might be excused on the airfare spike, as they were for once ”charging the right fares commensurate with the economic realities”.

”It is not surprising that the airlines have continued to struggle, owing service providers and regulatory agencies’ deductions of five per cent Ticket Sales Charge (TSC) and Passenger Services Charge (PSC), just to stay afloat.”

Dr Gbenga Olowu, the President, Aviation Safety Round Table Initiative (ASRTI) said that tariff had been deregulated in the last 15 years ago in the sector.

Olowu said that based on this, airlines were free to change their fares, depending on the economic realities.

According to him, today,” if airlines dropped tariff from between 10 and 15 dollars, this will have pressure on cash flow, until tariff per hour is increased beyond 100 dollars that airlines are paying, it will be profitable.

“Air traffic is not mass transit, but for those who are pressed of time to get to their destinations.

“The alternative is to go by rail or road and measure to consequence.”

A stakeholder, Mr Olumide Ohunayo, also corroborated Oluwo’s position, saying increase in fuel prices and FOREX also posed serious challenge to the sector.

Ohunayo said that the agency had deregulated the airfares and that it could not interfere with the pricing.

“Increase in airfares are often determined by market forces which is what we are all experiencing today,’’ he said.

When contacted, Mr Sam Adurogboye, the General Manager, Public Affairs of the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) said that airfares regime had been deregulated, even before the establishment of NCAA.

Adurogboye said that airfare price was determined by the market forces of demand and supply, which the airlines had applied in their business management.

“What the civil aviation policy said we should check is predatory practice, which means that if all of them decide to be charging N50,000 as base to any route.

“NCAA only intervenes when an airline fixes ridiculously low airfares.

“That can compromise safety standards as operations of any airline is capital intensive,’’ he said.

NAN recalls that the airlines, under the aegis of Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) had issued a statement complaining about the current high cost of aviation fuel.

They revealed, “aviation fuel cost above N410 per litre in Lagos, N422 in Abuja and Port Harcourt and N429 in Kano, while the dollar, which sells for between N580 to N600, is in short supply.’’

They also expressed anger at the “unavailability” of FOREX for spare parts and maintenance.

In the same vein, some passengers and airport users in Port Harcourt have lamented recent hike in air fares and persistent flight delays at the Port Harcourt International Airport.

Some of them, who relayed their experiences in an interview with NAN in Port Harcourt, attributed the new rates to high cost in aviation fuel.

A ticketer, Mr Davidson Amaechi told NAN that passengers now pay as much as N50,000 and above for Port Harcourt/Abuja, as well as Port Harcourt en route Lagos.

According to him, the increase in the cost of aviation fuel had affected flight operations resulting to persistent delays and low patronage.

“The recent hike on air fare is alarming.

“Just last week Wednesday, we saw that all the airlines had increased their rates to N 50,000 and above.”

Similarly, a passenger, Mrs Anita Tekena said in spite of paying as high as N50,000 air fare for Port Harcourt en route Lagos, she also suffered delay.

“I was booked for 3:00 p.m. on Arik flight, Wednesday but the flight was delayed till 10 p.m.

“Sadly, some passengers may have missed business appointments following the delay.”

Mr Idah Jumbo, another passenger urged the Federal Government to extend its railway infrastructure development to the South-South and South-East regions of the country.

“The patronage is low at the airport because of the high flight rate.

“If we had an alternative like the railway transportation just like in the North, a lot of us would prefer to use the train,” he added.

Meanwhile, regulatory agencies and airline operators at the Port Harcourt International Airport have declined comments on the current challenges in flight operations.

They told NAN that only their headquarters are in the best position to update the public on the challenges affecting the sub-sector.

Meanwhile, airlines operating in Anambra, Enugu and Imo states in the South East still record high patronage in spite of the 100 per cent increase in domestic airfares.

NAN survey on effects of airfare increase show that most flights to and from the South East were always fully booked.

Airline Operators in Nigeria recently announced an increase in airfares to a minimum of N50,000 from N23,000 representing over 100 per cent increase beginning from March 1.

The operators decried the high cost of aviation fuel, which rose from N190 a litre, to between N410 and N430, depending on the part of the country.

They also complained about foreign exchange scarcity, inflation, increase in ground handling charges and high cost of spare parts.

A staffer of an airline in the new Anambra Airport, Umueri, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the high patronage might not be unconnected with the problems of insecurity in the zone.

“Airlines, especially in Anambra are fully booked since the recent hike announced by our company,” he said.

Mr Greg Okoroafor, an air traveller, told NAN that though he could not consider the option of road transportation, saying that the recent hike on airfare by domestic airlines was unfair.

“I live in Dallas, Texas, U.S. and domestic airfare in the states is still stable in the last two years, what we experience in Nigeria is very bad to our economy,” he said.

Another airline user, Dr Peter Claver Amakouno appealed to the Federal Government to help address the problem of hike on the price of aviation fuel adding, ”most Nigerians were overstretched economically.”

Airline passengers in Ebonyi have also called on the Federal Government, Aviation Industry and Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON), among other authorities, to address the inconsistencies in the industry.

Mrs Chineye Okoye, a passenger told NAN that the inconsistencies on the airfare spike, aviation fuel hike, mode of operations among other abnormal developments, were affecting citizens and the economy badly.

Okoye said ”if the developments in the industry are not checked, people would take advantage of the situation to cause chaos.

“I think issues of this kind should be considered an emergency and tackled immediately to avoid negative impacts on people and the economy.

“The development is affecting both the travellers and operators. Imagine the current harsh economy and hike in virtually everything in the country.

“I came in from Kano state to Port Harcourt by air in August 2021 for N48,800, which is equivalent to taxi from Port Harcourt to Ebonyi. And when I was traveling back, I bought tickets for N68, 000 per person.

“It is too much and I am paying for my two children as well,” Okoye said.

Another passenger, Mr Sunday Nnamani, blamed airfare hike to insecurity, lamenting, ”the development is causing more hardship to citizens with the economic realities.

“We have bad roads on our high ways which is also a factor.”

In Imo, a staff of Air Peace blamed the recent hike in ticket prices on increase of cost of aviation fuel.

The staff who spoke anonymously, said the cost of fuel had more than doubled, adding that airlines had to adjust their fares to stay in business.

He added that although the situation was unfortunate, it would be difficult to go back to old prices unless something was done to address the underlying issue.

Travellers, who spoke with NAN at the Sam Mbakwe International Cargo Airport decried the situation and called on the government to intervene.

Airline Travels and Tour, a travel and ticketing agency, blamed the hike in airfares on absence of price regulation of goods and services in the country.

A senior staff of the agency, Mr Paschal Nnodim, who decried low passenger turnout called on relevant authorities to establish modalities for price control and regulation in the country.

Some travellers at the Sam Mbakwe International Airport also decried recent hike in airfare tickets, blaming the situation on insecurity on road journey.

They said “if Nigerian routes to either North or South-West were secured, there would not be upsurge in demand for air journey.”

Mr Kennedy Obasi, a lecturer at the Alvan Ikoku Federal College of Education (AICE) said insecurity on Nigerian high ways had forced travellers to settle for air journey.

“I can tell you that ordinarily, if there was no increase in the demands of air journey, owners of airlines would be made to decrease their airfare.

“It is common economics principle that when there is a high demand in any commodity, the price of such commodity must go high.”

In Enugu, air passengers however urged the authorities to look into incessant flight cancellations and excesses of some staffers of the Nigeria Customs, Immigration, and other agencies at the airports.

A passenger, Mr Jude Offor, who flew by Ethiopian Airlines from the U.S. to Enugu, said he passed through 13 different checks at the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu.

“My experience was devastating as I was almost tortured to drop money at every point.”

Another traveller, Mrs Chika Amuche, urged government to urgently address the situation to save Nigerians from further hardships.

In Kano, some domestic airline operators in Kano, have explained that the increase in the cost of aviation fuel was among the reasons why they increased airfares.

The airline operators further revealed that, high cost of maintenance also played an important role in increasing the cost of air tickets.

Other reasons, according to them, are increase in operational cost charged by the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and other handling charges.

They, therefore, called on the government to hasten measures that would address the problem.

The survey indicated that airfare from Kano to Abuja, which hitherto around N25,000 to N27,000, has now gone up to N50,000, and above.

The General Manager, Azman Air Services, Alhaji Suleiman Lawan, said that increase in aviation fuel forced them to rise their airfares.

“Before, the price of the fuel was about N200 plus, but now increased to N450, and those in far places like Maiduguri and Sokoto, are buying the fuel at higher rates.

“Handlers and catering services providers; have all increased their charges.

“Even the tax at the airport which was N1,000 before, but now increased to N2,000, so, airline operators were left with no option other than to increase the fares.

“We are not even talking of profit now, we are talking of breaking through, because we also have more liabilities to settle,” he said.

He said that high cost of aircraft maintenance was another reason which contributed immensely to the increase in airfares.

Lawan explained ”after every 18 months, an aircraft needs to go to abroad for maintenance, while sourcing for the foreign exchange is another problem.

“It is difficult to get dollars at the official rate, one has to go to the black market, which means, he will spend higher amount of local currency to get less foreign exchange.”

The general manager therefore urged the Federal Government to take measures that would assist to make aviation fuel more available and at a reasonable rate.

He urged the government to provide more landing facilities at airports, to address the problem of incessant flight delays and cancellation.

Another airline operator, Amb. Usman Darma, the Chairman, Darma Air Services, corroborated that rise in the cost of aviation fuel led to the increase in airfares.

He said that airline operators found it difficult to access foreign exchange for servicing of their aircraft abroad.

“One has to go to the black market to get dollars. Tax has also been increased at airports,” he said.

An official at Max Air Service, who did not want his name to be mentioned, lamented that cost of aviation fuel had gone up by about 200 per cent

“Operational costs have gone up, same with handling services and the exchange rate too,” he said.

The source also revealed that delays were caused by factors such as lack of proper navigational system and bad weather.

“Once one is delayed, it will affect subsequent flights,” he said.

He revealed that inadequate facilities in the airport sometimes lead to congestion and urged the government to as a matter of urgency, address these problems.

The airline operators, however, said that airfare increase had not affected their patronage because air transport is, ”for high and middle income earners’’.

“The passengers can afford it, they have fully understood the situation,” the airline operators said.

A cross section of passengers at Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport (MAKIA), have however decried the sudden hike in airfares by about 80 per cent.

A passenger, Alhaji Bello Noma, said that the hike could also affect the airline operators because of the tendency for them to record low patronage.

“The fare from Kano to Lagos, which was N29,000 before, has now been increased to N50,000, and above,” he said.

He pointed out that the hike could affect the country’s economy, ”because the government gets more revenue from the airlines when they record high patronage.”

Another passenger, Malam Shehu Abdullahi, lamented on unnecessary delays or cancellations of flight.

He said that the government should investigate reasons behind the ugly trend with a view to addressing it.

The District Head of Maitsidau, Makoda Local Government Area of Kano state, Alhaji Magaji Galadima, urged the government to come to the aid of passengers on the issue.

”It was the insecurity situation in the country that forced many people to travel by air.

“Yet, the increment in the airfares may leave people with no option, but to return to road transport, exposing themselves to threats, ” he said.

Meanwhile, officials at the Kano Regional Office of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), declined comments on the issue, saying that its Public Relations Officer, Abuja, should be contacted for comments.(NAN)