Since the resumption of flights by Dana Air and the earlier joining of scheduled passenger service by Med View Airlines, air fares have crashed on the local routes.
Obviously this should be a delight to passengers but industry experts point to the safety implications of introducing low fares that cannot even offset operational costs.
This may lead to the demise of the airlines over time. But the immediate consequence is that the airlines will begin to cut corners on maintenance as there will be no available fund to pay for major aircraft maintenance.
Another factor is that it will affect replacement of aircraft parts as airlines would be tempted to recycle aircraft parts and the consequence is another cycle of air crashes and deaths that outlines the history of air transport in Nigeria.
THISDAY learnt that the lowest fares in the domestic transport market is the one charged by Dana Air, which is N9,000; Med View low fare is N14,000, while Aero is forced to bring down its fare to N16,000 and Arik is considering crashing its own fares as it is now losing passengers to the other airlines.
Industry expert and seasoned pilot admitted that hitherto, the domestic carriers overpriced themselves, but present reality indicate that such high prices must have to come down, “but not to the ridiculous level that you cannot offset your operational cost.”
The pilot recommended that ideal fare for one hour flight should be N20, 00 so that the airlines would be able to offset operational cost and have funds to effectively maintain their aircraft and pay their workers.
But this amount is still considered high by the passengers who believe that well-organised domestic market should have fares as low as N15, 000, if government is able to bring down the cost of aviation fuel and also waive some of the charges levelled on domestic operation.
The pilot blamed the low pricing to lack of economic oversight and said that if the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) is monitoring the pricing of the airlines, it would ensure that fares were not brought as low as it would affect the operations of the airlines and threaten safety standards.
NCAA told THISDAY on Wednesday that it would investigate the prices and to know whether to stop the airlines from charging such fares or not.
The regulatory body also noted that it approved the promo fares that some airlines have adopted, noting that the online low fares are offset by the high fares sold at the counter; but presently it is only Aero that is on that promo.
The pilot, who considered N20, 000 as safe fares said that fares are calculated by six per nautical mile, which is a term also used by international airlines and this is multiplied with the number of seats in an aircraft and the price of one seat is determined.
“Then you add navigational charges, passenger service charge, five per cent ticket sales charge and cost of fuel. When you add all these you know that N20, 000 should be a fair fare for both the airlines and the passengers because the airline has to exist first and operate safely for it to airlift passengers. Passengers anywhere in the world will always go for low fares, however,” the pilot said.