By Chinedu Eze
There are indications that the current high airfares being charged on domestic destinations might linger till July when it is expected that Nigerian airlines would bring in more aircraft from maintenance facilities overseas.
THISDAY investigations revealed that currently there is paucity of aircraft operating domestic service at a time more people have chosen to travel by air due to insecurity on the roads.
THISDAY checks also indicated that air fares have increased further as the Easter season draws closer as one-way ticket costs between N60, 000 to N70, 000, and got as high as N85, 000 for economy class.
On Wednesday, March 30, 2021, the lowest fare was about N60, 000 for one hour flights and to all destinations, and as high as N85, 000 for economy class and business class was going to N150, 000 and above.
A travel agent who pleaded to remain anonymous, told THISDAY that, “There is no more average ticket fare now. Everything has gone up. I bought economy ticket for N60, 000 Air Peace, N65, 000, Dana Air.
“Arik Air tickets went up to N70, 000 and even the new airline, United Nigeria and Ibom Air are selling tickets at over N70, 000. They said the cause is the increase in price of aviation fuel.”
THISDAY also gathered that besides the fact that more people now travel by air and the price of aviation fuel has increased, Nigerian airlines do not have enough equipment that could reach equilibrium with passenger demand.
Some of the airlines have their aircraft ferried overseas for mandatory checks and were yet to be brought back because the maintenance facilities have not completed work on the equipment due to hiccups occasioned by COVID-19.
Spokesman of Air Peace, Stanley Olise, told THISDAY that there was expectation that more aircraft would have returned by July, saying that when more aircraft are brought in they would meet the passengers demand and tame the high airfares.
“I am hopeful. You know we have a lot of aircraft outside. By July many of them would have come back and likely the fares will come down,” he added.
But Corporate Communications Manager, Dana Air, Kingsley Ezenwa expressed doubt that airfares would come down in July.
According to him, besides the paucity of aircraft, there are other factors that influence airfares and these include increase in demand, cost of aviation fuel, charges, tariffs charged on aircraft spares and others.
He said since October last year airfares have remained high, not bowing to low or high seasons because consistent high demand has obliterated the traditional high and low seasons which peaks in December and comes down in January.
“I do not have 100 per cent confidence that the fares will come down in July or any time because a lot of things determine the increase besides the availability of more aircraft.
“More aircraft may come and may not have impact on the fares because more people travel by air every day. Some factors influence the price of tickets and these include duties, cost of fuel, demand and supply and exchange rate.
“So if by July all these parameters remain the same, airfares may not likely going to come down,” Ezenwa said.
He said the only way travellers could get cheap fares was to book their flights early, adding that once a passenger buys ticket one or two days to his flight date the fares are likely going to be high, adding that for domestic air travel, there are no more high or low season.
“Before now we used to have high season and low season. High season peaks in December and low season is January and after Easter the high seasons continues into summer; but since October last year the season has remained high.
“So that projection that fares will come down might not work. The secret is to book early. Plan your trip early. Plan early and get low fare. From the way the demand is rising, the season may peak till December,” Ezenwa said.
Industry insider said that more people travel by air despite the economic crunch because that is the only way to travel safely in the country.