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Fare hike: Airlines record low booking as passengers shun flights

Airlines have recorded a drop in passengers following the recent increment in price, with a one-way economy ticket selling for N50,000.

Airlines have recorded a drop in passengers following the recent increment in price of ticket with a one-way economy ticket selling for N50,000.

A source at the Murtala Muhammad Airport (MMA) domestic wing said passengers’ figure had dropped since weekend, saying more people would have decided to travel by roads as they could no longer afford what they called the “exorbitant air fares.”

An official of one of the domestic airlines who spoke with our correspondent said, “The passengers coming to the airport have somehow dropped. People are probably now traveling by road. Those you see at the airport now are big men.”

A Twitter user, Ikenna, on Tuesday posted a picture of a nearly empty flight he boarded in the morning, suggesting that the passengers must have shunned air travel over the recent hike in fares.

“Just look at how empty a morning flight is. 50k! 100% increase in air ticket! We are finished in this country,” he said.

Passengers have continued to lament over the increment in air fares across all sectors.

It was, however, learnt that the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) may reject the price increase which is seen to be against competition.

A source said the decision of AON was anti-competition for a group to take a decision on price fixing. “The FCCPC will soon come up with a position on it.”

Since last week, operators under the umbrella of the Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) have increased air fares by about 100 per cent with a one-way economy ticket selling for N50,000.

They blamed the decision on the increasing cost of operation, especially the price of aviation fuel which has almost quadrupled, now selling for over N410 per litre.

However, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) appears to be helpless on the issue as it said air fares are deregulated and determined by market forces.

“Air fare has been deregulated long ago and as such it is market forces that are the determining factor. NCAA is meant to check predatory practices with the provision of the civil aviation policy,” spokesman of the NCAA, Mr Sam Adurogboye said in an interview with Daily Trust.

However, some stakeholders are insisting that NCAA has a responsibility to intervene. An aviation analyst, Capt. Alex Nwuba, said with the increment in airfares, people would begin to travel by bus and by train.

“Some of us will go by bus, some of us will go by train. Very soon, we will have the Lagos-Kano rail route. Aviation has always been for people in a hurry. It is not for everybody’s journey. And it is not about the elite that it is open to, it is only for people in a hurry.

“If you are not in a hurry, go by road and enjoy the scenery, experience many cities and many activities in the country,” he said.

Nwuba noted that price-fixing by a group is anti-competition and distorts the market, and called on NCAA to intervene as a matter of urgency.  

Another aviation analyst, Dr Daniel Young, insisted that NCAA must intervene, saying the authority “cannot afford to keep quiet over what they (operators) are doing because the onus is on them to correct and regulate the airlines and the industry to ensure that people are not unnecessarily expressing greed all in the name of trying to balance their business.”

Speaking about the airlines, he said “They are not offering anything more than what they are giving. You enter an aircraft, they give you Ribena as if you are going to school and they expect to collect N50,000. It is just biscuit of N50 and Ribena of N100, then you are collecting N50,000.

“The flight is delayed, no incentive in terms of giving you refreshment. You take passengers for granted and when they miss their flights, you don’t refund their money and then you want us all to keep quiet.

“Then you went and conspired, having a series of meetings which is against the law to hike the price and peg it. The Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Council has a law against that.”

He stated that the implication of the fare hike is that passengers’ number will drop, insisting the challenges being faced by the operators are temporary.

“Now if we allow them to peg their price at N50,000, to bring it down from that will be difficult.”

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