As Travellers Threaten to Boycott Nigerian Carriers

Chinedu Eze

One major thing that would be etched in the minds of air travellers in Nigeria in 2023 would be what many described as outrageous airfares that rose to almost N200, 000 for one way ticket at the peak of the Yuletide season.

Airlines found it very difficult convincing travellers that domestic tickets could be sold for up to N150, 000 one way and return ticket going for over N300, 000. Some travellers that spoke to THISDAY, said this had never happened in the history of aviation in Nigeria and “we have never seen this kind of greed among Nigerian airlines.”

Some Nigerians analysed that the tickets cost highest on the South-east routes and were critical of the businessmen from that region that own airlines: Air Peace and United Nigeria Airlines. They insisted that there was no way that fares could climb that high on those Eastern routes and alleged that they were being ripped off by their kinsmen.

Although Air Peace had earlier issued a statement that there was no programmed intent to exploit travellers to the Eastern region; that the fares followed the principle of demand and supply, recognising the fact that there is influx of passengers to the East during Christmas holidays.

It was really difficult to tame the anger of travellers during the Christmas season, especially those who looked at the high fares from the prism that their own were exploiting them and at a time they return enmass to celebrate Christmas and New Year with their loved ones in their communities.

But airlines said that the exchange rate of over N1000 to a dollar, the high cost of operation and limited capacity and high demand were the factors that upped the fares.

The Managing Director and CEO of Aero Contractors, Captain Ado Sanusi said that the cost of tickets could only come down if the cost of operation is down.

“For cost of ticket, I believe the only way the ticket fares will come down is if the cost of operation is reduced drastically. And how do you reduce their fixed costs and their variable costs? You have to tinker with the variable costs. The fixed costs, you can do very little about that. So the variable costs, the cost of Jet A1 (aviation fuel), the personnel costs, the cost of repairs, maintenance, all that, you need to tinker with them. And of course, it all boils down to the cost of foreign exchange to the Naira. That’s the dollar to the Naira. Now, bear in mind that some of the airlines have taken the advantage of the high demand in travel during this Yuletide season, during this festive season. They have taken that advantage to increase their fares. They will reduce their fares because people cannot afford to continue to pay those huge amount of money to travel and the demand will be very low. So you will see a slight decrease in 2024, January, February, March, because those are the months that airlines struggle. So you will see a bit of reduction. And if the dollar to Naira exchange stabilizes, you will see a stable rate of tickets throughout the year. Probably if there’s a new entrant into the market, you might see a slight decrease in ticket fares,” Sanusi said.

He noted that if more airlines join the market the fares could come own because it means that more aircraft will be available or even if the existing airlines acquire more aircraft it may bring down the cost of ticket because that means more seats available for passengers.

The Minister of Aviation and Aerospace Development, Festus Keyamo had hinted that he would collaborate with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and concerned authorities to see how dollars could be made available to airlines. This will enable them to bring back their aircraft ferried overseas for maintenance and it will also enable them to acquire new equipment.

Travellers also complained about flight delays and cancelation, protesting that passengers are not adequately compensated when flights are delayed for a certain period or even cancelled.

But the President, Association of Aviation Training Organisation Nigeria and the Group Managing Director of FlinchGlow Holdings, Bankole Bernard, said that prescribed compensation for passengers is contained in the consumer protection section of the Nigeria Civil Aviation Regulations as amended.

“We do already pay compensations and delays for flight cancellations or delays. What I just want us to understand is, we are not inventing the wheel, I mean it is everywhere in the world, so let us not put a kind of money into the mouth of passengers. Oh, when there is a delay, you are going to be demanding compensation from airlinesiff the delay is caused by the parastatal, the federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) for instance, or is caused by the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) inspectors inspecting the airplane, who pays for that delay? So we must put an infrastructure in place that will definitely know that it’s the airline that is responsible for this delay, then we can now say this is the procedure to compensate for that delay.”

Bernard who was the former President of National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies (NANTA) further said. “But it will be chaotic, believe me, if I have a flight that is supposed to leave and because of congestion at the tarmac or congestion at the check-in counter and I could not depart for one hour, two hours because of the infrastructure of FAAN, who pays for the delay? Or if I have an airplane that was supposed to be released by Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority and the inspectors are still doing their job and the delay turns out to be three or four hours, who pays for that delay.”

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