How high fares ‘kill’ Nigerians’ desire to travel by air

 

 Air travel is one of the barometers to gauge the health of a nation. Whenever a country is doing well, it will reflect on the number of people that travel by air.

Nigerian aviation is not a stand-alone, it is part of the bigger economy of Nigeria and contributes to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

To this end, it is obvious that aviation is the quickest barometer to check any economy.

 

Air Peace’s Embraer 195-E2

A frequent traveler and an airline owner, who preferred anonymity, said: “If you check the Nigerian travelling populace, 70 to 80 percent of those travelling are business people, as compared to the outside world where only 40 percent are business people, 30 percent tourists and the other 30 percent are students and others.

Passengers on domestic routes in the country have expressed concern over astronomical fares as one-hour flights now cost over N50, 000 and more on routes that have just one of two airlines servicing the destination.

The jump in airfares across the board by over 50 percent could further lead to the low propensity for more Nigerians to take to air travel as the tough economic situation could seriously hamper that and in the long run, also affect airlines’ bottom line as more people could eventually take to road travel.

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Meanwhile, the decision by scheduled airline operators to jerk up fares could further slow the number of air travelers by the time the traffic figure for 2022 is made available later in the year. It is a probability if one considers the huge risks of travelling by road.

Many who were at the airport yesterday when Aviation Metric visited the domestic wings of the Lagos airport lamented the sharp increase in airfares.

Many of the travelers said the situation could have a big repercussion on the economy depending on the way one looks at it.

 

Nigerian airlines

Air tickets for a one-hour trip that cost between N25, 000 and N28, 000 a few weeks ago go for as high as N50, 000 and N55, 000 for one way.

Despite a significant increase in domestic passenger traffic in 2019 by almost 30 percent, there is still a huge gap in travel demand by Nigerians.

No fewer than 15 million air travellers both domestic and international went through Nigeria Airports in 2019, according to figures by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA).

It is generally assumed that most Nigerian airline failures should be attributed to the overbearing influence of ownership, wrong aircraft configuration, high cost of operations; headwinds in government policy among others have seen airlines go bust.

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An aviation analyst asked, “Could it be that the above was merely contributing factors that led to the economic principle of sizes profitability? and that these airlines failed simply because they became unprofitable and in essence outgrew their market capacity to generate profit”.

While the sudden increase in fares may have hurt passengers and put them in a serious state of confusion, the airlines are equally going through a difficult time that threatens their existence.

The airlines, last week in a lengthy statement gave 16 reasons why flights were always delayed and cancelled across the board

The statement by the airline’s in part read, “Unavailability and the ever-rising cost of Aviation Fuel – JetA1 today costs above N410 in Lagos, N422 in Abuja and Port Harcourt, and N429 in Kano per litre and has continued to rise fast and steadily. On top of the continuous rise in the fuel price, fuel supply is at best epileptic at several airports thereby causing delays.

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“Unavailability of Forex for spare parts and maintenance – Airlines carry out most of their activities in dollars which today sells for between N580 to N600 and is in short supply. Nigeria’s domestic airlines are in a ‘life and death struggle to secure the Forex they need to acquire their spare parts to maintain their aircraft. This is a major influence on how quickly a grounded aircraft can be fixed and restored to its flight schedule, which in turn has a huge impact on the schedule reliability of the domestic airlines”.

A traveler who simply identified herself as James Adefemi said he was not too sure if many people would still travel by air as a result of the situation.

His words, “Nobody is sure of what to expect again. The fares are just too much to bear for people who earn so low an income. The services these airlines provide are nothing to write home about. Let us see if they will provide better services with the high fares”.

Wole Shadare