Yuletide and High Travel Demand

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It is likely that passengers who are travelling by air this Christmas season on domestic destinations will have to pay more.

THISDAY gathered that as at October, travellers had started booking for December flights and by mid-November, most airlines had fully booked flights for Christmas holidays.

But for the airlines to meet passengers’ demand they would have to reschedule flights by putting more flights at the airports that have higher passenger traffic during the season.

For example, flights to Port Harcourt, Owerri, Calabar, Enugu, Uyo and Benin are high at the end of the year, while those to Yola, Kaduna, Kano, Maiduguri are not as high.

So airlines deploy more aircraft to the busier routes. But there is still a challenge; the airlines can only give what they have. Currently there are limited operating aircraft in the country, but in the last two weeks, some of the airlines have received their aircraft back from maintenance overseas.

Earlier in the week, Medview Airline announced additional flights to some domestic destinations, Air Peace has started receiving some of its aircraft from checks overseas and Dana Air has welcomed back one of its aircraft from checks overseas too.

So there is increased operating aircraft for the Yuletide but the high demand for flights have jerked up the fares.

THISDAY spoke with the Corporate Communications Manager, Air Peace, Chris Iwarah, who said the airline would deploy enough aircraft to meet the demand of the season. He also said that the airline still graduates its fares but it is obvious that as more people book for flights, the system would continue to increase the fare.

“Our airfares have remained the same for a long time. Our flights are fully booked for the season but we are going to create more flights. In 2017 the fares on our domestic routes ranged from N21, 000 to N41,000 for the economy class. But in 2018 and currently it ranges from N23, 000 to N42, 000 for economy class. Although as more passengers demand tickets the air fair increases but we put a ceiling to the fares; it starts from the minimum but as more people continue to buy ticket, the system continues to increase the fare. For example, the minimum fare could go for only 40 people who first bought tickets; then the system would increase the fare for the next people that would buy tickets.

“Our booking peaked by mid-November, but we are creating more flights as more aircraft arrive from maintenance. We usually schedule flights according to the aircraft available. From November 17 we are creating more flights. This year people booked ahead of time. Some started booking in October and those who did at that time bought the tickets at relatively low prices,” Iwarah said.

He noted that the tickets are not always sold at the same fares even when it automatically goes up because the airline’s agents sell at different prices and anyone buying ticket from overseas would buy at a price determined by the exchange rate, which is decided by the International Air Transport Association (IATA). For example, a passenger in Ghana buying ticket for domestic flights in Nigeria would probably buy at a higher fare than a Nigerian in Nigeria who is buying the same type of ticket.

On how Air Peace plans to operate when the Harmattan haze disrupts flight, Iwarah said that the airline follows weather reports and when it is not safe to fly, it suspends flights but it has standby crew so during crew time out, the airline has other sets of crew that would take over flight operations immediately.

“In this way we maximise the opportunity at the time it would be safe to fly. From October we experience more flight disruptions due to inclement weather but we are prepared to take advantage of the windows when it is safe to fly,” Iwarah said.

THISDAY also spoke to the Media and Communications Manager of Dana Air, Kingsley Ezenwa, who said the airline’s fares are “pocket friendly” even during the peak of the Yuletide season when flight tickets are in high demand, but noted that the prices for tickets would increase as Christmas gets closer.

“We look at the variables. For now, airfares are still low; although traffic is massive now, particularly flights to Owerri, Abuja and Port Harcourt. What we do is to create more flights to meet the demand of our customers. But the fare may be higher, but we will create more flights to the destinations where is higher demand and reduce flights on the routes where the demand is low,” he said.

Air Peace, Arik Air, Dana Air, Max Air, Medview Airline, Aero, Azman and Overland Airways are the airlines in the domestic market, operating currently about 24 aircraft.