Air Peace as Game Changers in International Flights

Chinedu Eze

Nigerians travelling to international destinations have heaved a sigh of relief with the fall in cost of ticket to all destinations. The most affected is the Lagos-London route, from where it is projected that over 1000 people travel from Nigeria to UK every day.

Two factors have been attributed to the fall of the airfares: the entrant of Air Peace to Nigeria’s most lucrative international destination, Lagos-London route and the appreciation of the Naira.

At the height of Naira slump, Business Class was going for N11 million. But a one way economy class ticket from Lagos to London on British Airways which cost N3 million for Economy and N11 million for Business Class, recently dropped to N1.7 million for economy and N6.8million for Business Class respectively.

On Lufthansa, a one way economy class ticket from Lagos to London, which also cost about N3 million and N9 million for Business class now cost N2 million for economy class and N7 million for Business Class. 

On Virgin Atlantic, the same destination, which cost about N2 million for Economy, N5 million for Economy Premium and N12 million for Business Class now cost N1.5 million for Economy, N3 million for Premuim and N6 million for Business Class.  

For the Lagos- London route, Ethiopian Airlines is the cheapest carrier, charging N838, 000 for a one-way economy class ticket on the route. Passengers have to connect flights on Ethiopian Airlines flight, which obviously would take longer time up to 17 hours. 

Qatar Airways charges N900, 000 for a one-way economy class ticket from Lagos to London and will take as much as 36 hours for the travellers to arrive in London. Air Peace, which operates direct flight of six hours on the route, charges about N800, 000 to N1 million for one way ticket.

Other airlines are Asky Airlines and Royal Air Maroc charging N1,049,000 and N1,054,000 respectively with 20 hours and 10 hours flight time respectively. 

For Business Class ticket, Air Peace charges the cheapest for a one way ticket on the Lagos-London route with a fare of N1.9million, Royal Air Maroc is N2.1million, Qatar Airways is N2.8million, Turkish Airways N3.8 million, and Lufthansa N5.2 million. 

For a one-way economy class ticket on the Lagos-US route, Egypt Air charges the cheapest fare which goes for N1,064,000, Kenya Airways N1.14 million, Qatar N1.4 million, Ethiopian Airlines N1.5million and Royal Air Maroc N1.56 million.

For Business Class tickets, Egypt Air charges the cheapest with a fare of N2.7 million, Kenya Airways N4.8 million, Turkish Airlines N5million, Virgin Atlantic N5million and United Airlines N5.4 million. 

Price war has further intensified on the Lagos-London route, as foreign airlines have literally crashed the cost of tickets to the destination. 

The President of National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies (NANTA), Susan Akporiaye, explained that while Air Peace’s arrival has certainly shaken things up, the main reason for the drop in flight ticket prices, particularly with foreign airlines, is the recent appreciation of the Naira.

She explained that the exchange rate plays a crucial role. A ticket that used to cost N1.8 million at N1,800/$1 now comes down to N1.3 million with the Naira at N1200/$1. She said although the dollar price of the ticket remains the same, the lower naira exchange rate makes it more affordable for Nigerian travellers.

Speaking at the pre-48th Annual General Meeting (AGM) media conference in Lagos on Tuesday, Akporiaye disclosed that last year when airfares were so high

there was drop in ticket sales; however, a lot of Nigerians travelled but they bought their tickets from outside Nigeria’s jurisdiction like the neighboring countries, including Benin, Togo and Ghana, which must have recorded high increase in ticket sales enhanced by Nigerian travellers who shunned the high cost of ticket in their country to buy cheaper ones outside their shores. 

This was because while the lower inventory was closed for Nigerians, it was open for other countries in foreign currency; so, Nigerians were buying the cheap tickets from other countries and travelling with the same airlines in Nigeria and elsewhere, thus diminishing ticket sales records in Nigeria and boosting that of neigbouring countries.   

“It was difficult for us to be able to get foreign exchange. The restrictions put by the airlines because of foreign exchange availability led to the drop in sales from Nigeria. Our members had to put up survival mechanism.  

“Majority of the tickets we sold were out of Nigeria. Those sales were not attributed to the Nigerian market. If we are going to access the Ghana market or any West African country market, they would see an unusual growth, while it is a downward trend for the Nigerian market. This is because the airlines closed the lower inventories while the same lower inventories were open in other markets,” she further explained.

But there has been a lot of improvement this year. The start of Air Peace service to London curbed the avarice on the route and the fact that the flights are affordable and passengers can buy with naira makes it even more competitive. The icing on the cake is the appreciation of the naira which continues with upward trend in the forex market.

The country manager of one of the international airline who is based in Lagos, told THISDAY that Air Peace operation to London helped tame the fares but beyond London, fares are generally coming down because naira is appreciating against all major currencies and this is reflecting in the fares.

Travel expert and Founder of Akwaaba African Travel Market, Ambassador Ikechi Uko also told THISDAY that before Air Peace joined the London-Lagos route, there were particular airlines that airlifted Nigerians at relatively low fares and these include Qatar Airways, Royal Air Maroc, Ethiopian Airlines, which he said opened its lowest inventory for Nigerian passengers.

On how Air Peace entry into the London route has jolted the market, the travel expert told THISDAY that the competition is on, but premium passengers would still remain with the legacy airline, British Airways and that BA would use well known old rule by offering about 40 seats on very low fares, possibly lower than Air Peace fares on every flight to push for stiffer competition and during low season BA may extend the low fares to 80 seats or more, while holding tightly to business and first class cabin prices.

He remarked that BA has old clientele with mile accumulation that has existed for years, noting that Air Peace is the only Nigerian carrier that operated that Lagos-London route with very good Business Class and First Class product, disclosing that previous Nigerian carriers that operated the route never recorded high load factor on Business Class, “which is where the money is.”

Uko also told THISDAY that for a long-haul flight in-flight service remained key.

“Good in-flight service will take away from the passengers the lethargies of traveling for long distance. I travelled Business Class from Kenya and when I returned I went straight to my office and started working because I did not feel exhausted or cramped,” he said.

With affordable fares more Nigerians are going to travel and this will drive up passenger traffic and enhance a juicier market. But the Naira will be strengthened further if Nigerians patronise indigenous carriers on international routes.

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